Smaller farmers have new friends in food hubs, which quickly move local and regional produce to markets, often in underserved areas.
USDA is getting behind regional food hubs, which help small- and mid-sized farmers to distribute and market their locally grown foods quickly, efficiently, and with few infrastructure costs.
The Lempert Report sees this as positive news for these farmers and consumers. Food hubs look to be establishing roots as viable business models that open access to locally grown, healthy foods. More than 40% of food hubs operate in food deserts, says USDA, which just launched its Food Desert Locator.
USDA has released its first analysis of food hubs, which it defines as “a centrally located facility with a business management structure facilitating the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution and/or marketing of locally/regionally produced food products.” Two examples:
Preliminary research done by USDA with several partners (National Association of Produce Market Managers, the Wallace Center at Winrock International, and the Project for Public Spaces) shows the scope of food hubs today:
Different models of food hubs exist. We urge retailers to learn which ones operate in their markets and consider aligning with them, just as White’s and Food City have done in Virginia. This approach could satisfy shoppers who want to support nearby growers by eating the healthy foods they supply.