by Traci Knight
Access to fresh, healthy food as an economic development driver is becoming part of the picture in Michigan with the launch of Michigan Good Food Fund in June.
This statewide loan and grant fund will provide financing and business assistance to benefit communities with good food and economic opportunity, by offering funding from a broad sector of stakeholders, nonprofits, and philanthropist groups. The coalition is looking to support businesses to aggregate and distribute fresh produce in underserved communities while simultaneously building local economies.
Just north of San Francisco, Mendocino and Lake counties in California are full of small to medium-sized farmers. Many of them sell at local farmers’ markets.
But John Bailey noticed that the time and money many farmers spend just getting their crops to market can make a substantial dent in profits.
“They spend lots of money going to farmers’ markets, but do not earn a profit from farmers’ markets,” says Bailey. “Lots of farmers have no idea how to sell wholesale.”
by Rose Egelhoff
The spread is irresistible. A bevy of Los Angeles star chefs has been cooking all day, using grains and produce fresh from Weiser Family Farms. A Santa Barbara winemaker portions pours small glasses of a bright, sweet white wine to accompany appetizers. Sixty-two guests mill around the barn and a long, white-clothed table, framed by rows of apple trees, has been set for dinner.
A possible new food hub is on the horizon in DeKalb, Illinois.
Dan Kenney of DeKalb County Community Gardens came up with the idea after seeing the success of community gardens in the county. The countywide community garden project kicked off in 2012, and now boasts 40 different locations.
“We try to promote local food and local farmers, and we heard that food hubs are a key component in local food,” Kenney says.
He believes that a food hub located in DeKalb County, located west of Chicago in the northern part of the state, would have a major advantage just due to its geographic location. Interstate 88 (which runs east and west) and Interstate 39 (north and south) traverse through the county, which is in relative close proximity to Chicago, the Illinois-Wisconsin state line and the Mississippi River. Kenney is also encouraged at the success of food hubs elsewhere in the state, including Peoria and Chicago.
Roaring Fork Food Policy Council Founder and Director Gwen Garcelon has a lot of experience trying to effect change on complex issues. For ten years, she worked as a grassroots organizer for the D.C. based nonprofit Results, trying to end world hunger and poverty. Although she was laid off from this position when the recession hit in 2008, she has not lost her drive to tackle complicated and seemingly intractable issues. Most recently, she has set her sights on one of the most complex yet pressing issues we face: creating a more sustainable food system.
A recently-released case study, published by the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems, chronicles the creation, growth and lessons learned of the two-and-a-half year old Michigan Food Hub Network.
Titled “A Case Study in Building Effective Networks for Food System Change,” the publication tells the story of how and why various food hubs came together to build the Michigan Food Hub Network, according to Rich Pirog, senior associate director of the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems. It was also part of the requirement for the grant funding the network receives.
In a city known for recreation and tourism, Orlando’s East End Market offers its own attractions with chefs, artists, shops and a restaurant.
And this Central Florida food destination offers even more—in addition to its market, entertainment and education draws, East End Market is also a food hub, complete with educational opportunities and an incubator kitchen.
Regional food hubs have become all the rage in the past year among local foods advocates. These startups promote local food system development by offering aggregation and distribution services to farmers, food producers and vendors around the country.
The glowing media coverage they often receive for this and their increasing numbers suggest food hubs are an idea whose time has come. But can they survive in the long term?
A Growing Movement
Looking at the numbers, it’s clear the movement’s definitely developed momentum over the past few years.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, their ranks grew 65 percent between 2009 and 2013, jumping from around 140 different establishments to over 230. The agency now identifies approximately 300 operating throughout the United States.