Groundbreaking on a new food distribution center in Charlotte is set for Thursday morning.
The center, known as CFT Market, will serve as a distribution and production center for residential and commercial customers by offering locally-sourced food through the nonprofit Carolina Farm Trust.
Carolina Farm Trust is a nonprofit that seeks to ease barriers to food insecurity by working directly with local farmers to source fresh produce in Mecklenburg County.
Construction of the market started about a month and a half ago, Peake said.
In the upcoming phase of the project, a store and commercial kitchen will be completed. The total cost of this phase is approximately $6.5 million and is expected to be done around 2024.
The center is funded through private donations and funding from the City of Charlotte and ARPA.
Need for fresh produce
The year-round market will help increase access to affordable, nutrient-dense foods, particularly to residents of food deserts, like the Hoskins Road area, where the center will be located.
Chris Peake, community relations manager at Carolina Farm Trust, said the Hoskins community is in need of fresh produce.
“We want to serve everyone, but along with that being said, we placed CFT Market right in the middle of a food desert,” Peake said. “That was intentionally done so those that don’t have access to proper vegetables [can access them].”
Why it matters: About 15% of the population in Mecklenburg County is considered food insecure. Food insecurity can include having a lower quality or lack of variety of diet and disrupted eating patterns or missed meals due to lack of money and resources.
Produce in the grocery store will be priced affordably thanks to year-round fundraising by the Carolina Farm Trust.
Phase one plans
The market will be comprised of four parts completed in phases.
Phase one includes a 3,000-square-foot commercial “teaching” kitchen that will be used to create items such as aioli and salsa, as well as offer monthly educational events like cooking classes to community members.
The items produced in the kitchen will be sold at the market’s grocery store.
The grocery store will be open to the public and will offer regional and seasonal-based produce, such as pumpkins in the fall and zucchini in the summer.
“It’s gonna range from season to season,” Michael Bowden, the manager of CFT Market said.
The produce will be sourced by local urban farms, including the Urban Farm at Aldersgate, an urban farm in Charlotte.
Partner farms, like the Urban Farm at Aldersgate, will use regenerative farming techniques – a farming style that promotes sustainability, nurtures and restores soil health and protects the climate and water resources and biodiversity– Peak said.
An example of regenerative farming could be not using chemicals on the produce.
“[Regenerative farming is about] going back to where it all started,” Peake said. “[It’s about] respecting our environment, respecting the air.”
In addition to decreasing food insecurity and offering fresh produce to the community, the market’s secondary goal is to increase employment opportunities in the west Charlotte community and within the farming community.
“The goal is to create jobs, create a robust food economy, all with a very strong equity lens,” Zack Wyatt, founder of Carolina Farm Trust, said.
Wyatt said the organization plans to have 40 staff positions open at the grocery store.
In addition to the market, the center will also offer a community space that can be rented for special events. It will also continue to support the Senior Citizen Nutrition Program, which gives fresh produce to local seniors across Mecklenburg County.