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Understanding the Economics of a Food Hub

A dieticians, food service workers and health care experts, most of us know the nutritional value of locally grow food. But do we know the economic value?

The USDA just released a report – The Role of Food Hubs in Local Food Marketing. The goal of the paper is to help present food hubs within the context of the growing local foods movement. It start with a nice definition of a food hub…

Food hubs represent a strategy for producers, particularly small and mid-sized producers, to market their production locally. Food hubs create new marketing opportunities for rural food producers. They help connect rural producers as directly as possible to rural, suburban, and urban markets. This creates a system of linkages, developed through food hubs, that enables both rural producers and urban consumers to learn from each other.

The report sets the stage for understanding food hub from the perspective of the producer…

Entry into local food markets can prove difficult for many farmers, particularly small and mid-sized farmers, with capacity constraints and the lack of distribution systems most often being the largest hurdles to overcome. Food hubs are part of a growing local food system that strengthens rural economies by lowering entry barriers and improving infrastructure to create, as well as expand, regional food markets. They can also create rural jobs. This rural on- and off-farm employment can expand opportunities and encourage skilled people, including youth, to remain in rural areas.

The report indicates that there may be a role for us in public health and education to help increase nutritional and economic health of our communities…

farm to foodMany hubs have evolved from an educational or social mission to bring consumers and producers together in the marketplace. While selling local foods to consumers is one function, these hubs may also seek to educate their buyers about the importance of retaining food dollars in the local economy or keeping agricultural lands in production.

Sometimes just having flyer or posters to promote the local food movement can get a client to start thinking about the option. Inviting any local food hubs to hang schedules in public places can also be helpful. Or simply ask you clients and patients if they have considered local farmers markets, CSAs or other feed hub options that might spur healthier choices.

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