What is a Food Hub? Part II: National Models We Like

Hopefully our last blog post provided you with a few examples of what a food hub is and how it operates. Now that we have covered the basics, we would like to show you what is happening in the world of food hubs by showcasing some great projects. This list is by no means complete, but it demonstrates the diversity of business structures, programming, and operations happening nationally.

We know two things: first, there is increasing demand for regionally produced food. Second, many small- and mid-size growers lack access to the networks and infrastructure that would make their access to these markets possible. Eastern Carolina Organics is a grower-owned LLC that addresses both of these issues by marketing products to buyers and supporting growers. ECO makes regional food access possible through marketing and distributing produce to retailers. On the growers’ end, their Grow With ECO program helps growers build relationships with ECO, plant their crops based on market demand, and find outlets for their produce.

Farm to Family Foods, located in St. Louis, MO, is an LLC with an impressive résumé. This organization increases food access by working with many institutions: schools, daycare centers, restaurants, and retail outlets. It offers a CSA, “Metro Markets,” available to those who use public transportation, and “Mobile Markets” that bring fresh food to neighborhoods that lack nearby grocery stores. And this fall, the St. Louis Food Hub will open. While Farm to Family Foods is already participating in what we might consider “hub” activities (by aggregating and distributing growers’ products), their website says the new food hub will be “processing and packaging foods, growing specialty products on site, operating a retail store and facilitating the wholesale distribution of locally produced foods to regional businesses and institutions.”

Common Market, a mission-driven nonprofit foodservice company based in Philadelphia, aggregates and distributes food from its warehouse. With a network of about 80 growers and 200 institutions, Common Market’s impacts can be felt throughout the region. This PBS video features Haile Johnston, who explains Common Market’s beginnings and vision.

The Fifth Season Cooperative is a multi-stakeholder cooperative with members representing all levels of the food system. Members are from a region that includes parts of Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois. This group is committed to creating a viable regional food system. To learn about the coop’s work, watch this short presentation that can be found on their website.

These are just a few examples of the great work going on nationwide. Whether focusing on growing, distributing, or buying capacity – or sometimes all three – these organizations are making a big difference for many key players in the food system.

Check back for our next blog post, where we will move closer to home and take a look at food hubs in Michigan.

 

Photos courtesy of USDA and cafemama

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