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York University gears up to help food entrepreneurs grow their businesses in COVID-19 era

York University Keele Campus. Deborah Baic / File / The Globe and Mail / The Canadian Press

TORONTO — A new university-affiliated program in Ontario is preparing to help entrepreneurs scale up their food businesses despite the challenges of the COVID-19 era.

A company that makes chocolate snacks, a maker of a non-dairy oat drink and a gluten-free bakery will be among the eight participants in the five-month program managed by York University.

The food and beverage accelerator program has received funding from several levels of government and led by YSpace, an innovation hub run by York University.

Read more: No in-person fall convocation this year at York, Ryerson, U of T and Seneca

YSpace’s David Kwok says the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for the program because business owners are concerned about the survival of smaller retailers that would sell their products.

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Kwok says entrepreneurs are also concerned about the increasing cost of operating production facilities and research labs because of the need for personal protective equipment and redesigned workstations.

The food and beverage accelerator program has received funding from a variety of sources including from federal and provincial programs, the regional municipality of York, and the cities of Vaughan and Markham, Ont.

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