The Quad-Cities Food Hub market’s modest inventory of jams, coffee, chips, salsa and sorgham doesn’t match the big plans that are about to take hold.
The food hub, a local food initiative, added a store manager in February. It will move into a larger space at Davenport’s Freight House in a few weeks that will offer more products and more resources that are expected to be available this summer.
These developments come 2 1/2 years after local food proponents first pushed for the creation of a food hub and market offering locally grown and produced products. A $100,000 grant received last fall is helping with start-up and salary costs.
“I’ve felt like it has taken too much time, but being exposed to other working groups for Iowa, we’ve learned it has taken a couple of years for others to get off the ground,” said Carla Jaquet, food hub board president. “We are probably right on track.”
The market shares the Freight House, at 421 W. River Drive, with Nostalgia Farms Fresh Deli and the Front Street tasting room.
Wendy Saathoff, the store manager, is increasing inventory with an eye toward the expanded space that also will offer coolers for perishable items, a community kitchen as a business incubator and a virtual market that will connect farmers to buyers such as grocery stores or restaurants.
“There is so much needing to take place,” Saathoff said. “There are so many areas to develop that we don’t want to be compared to a grocery store.”
Current products on the shelf include coffee from a Kewanee, Ill., company, jams and jellies from Park View and honey from Fulton, Ill., along with more regional products.
“We want to keep local — within 100 miles — and do some regional products up to 250 miles,” she said.
“Sometimes, you have to be realistic. You aren’t going to find some things locally.”
Barb Pethoud made a delivery to the food hub store Friday. Her and husband, Steve, operate Barb’s Pantry and make jams, jellies, doughnuts and other baked goods in Park View. They began selling at farmers markets but now distribute to several Hy-Vee Food Stores and have added the Food Hub. Barb Pethoud met Saathoff when Saathoff worked at the Bettendorf Hy-Vee in the healthy marketplace section.
“We needed somewhere for people to find our stuff in the off-season,” Barb Pethoud said. “We’re just a natural fit here.”
Knowing coolers will be available soon, Saathoff recently began reaching out to dairy and meat producers while also working with local contacts she made during her five years at Hy-Vee. She is applying to the city for a beer and wine license. The store already offers non-alcoholic root beer from Davenport’s Great River Brewery.
The kitchen is expected to be used by someone who wants to start a baked good business but isn’t ready to open a storefront, said Steve Ahrens, Levee Improvement Commission development director. That person can use the kitchen’s resources to experiment with recipes or create inventory. The levee commission oversees the Freight House.
He said the kitchen is a work in progress and must be be cleaned before it can be certified by the Scott County Health Department.
“We are starting to hear from interested people about using it,” Ahrens said, saying a master calendar will be kept to track users who rent it.
The food hub is meant as a regional entity, Jaquet and Saathoff said. An open house and fundraiser will be held soon to show off the market’s new space.
“A lot of folks need some information about the food hub,” Jaquet said. “We think of ourselves as a Quad-Cities-wide initiative.”