As the name implies, Food Hubs, work to bring together food collections. Food hubs help identify and profile food collections across the country. They help one understand the role and impact of the U.S. food system as well as the potential challenges and/or barriers that may occur.
A regional food hub is a business or organization that actively manages the
aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified food products primarily
from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail,
and institutional demand.
Foods hubs can focus on the supply side, including the support and training of sustainable production practices, production planning, packaging, certification, food safety, etc. All of these initiatives enable producers to access wholesale consumers (i.e. for retail stores or foodservice institutions). On the other end of the spectrum, the demand side of food hubs focus on coordinating efforts with wholesale buyers, processors, distributors and consumers to make sure they can meet the market’s demand for source identified, locally, regionally or location specific grown products. While food hubs can have a primary focus, either supply or demand, the business management’s primary focus is to coordinate supply chain logistics.
Classification of food hubs is based on either structure or function. Structural classification includes nonprofit organizations, privately held food hubs, cooperatives and/or publically held food hubs. The legal structure of the food hub often times affects its operation and function. Functional food hubs can be classified into three categories: farm to business/institution model, farm to consumer model or hybrid model, depending on the primary market they serve.
1) Farm to business/Institution model: Food hubs sell to wholesale market buyers (i.e. grocery stores, institutional foodservice companies, restaurants, food cooperatives, etc.); provide new wholesale market outlets for local growers that would be harder for them to access individually
2) Farm to consumer model: food hub’s responsible for marketing, aggregating, packaging and distributing to consumers directly; i.e. food delivery companies, mobile markets, community supported agriculture, online buying cubs
3) Hybrid model: food hubs sell to wholesale market buyers and to consumers directly
If you’re still with me, first of all, thanks! I also want to make sure why it’s important you recognize the different food hubs and why it’s worth learning more about. Since many farmers are limited due to the lack of distribution and processing of products which would give them greater access to retail, institutional and commercial foodservice markets, food hubs has bridged that gap! Food hubs are a great way to combine production, distribution and marketing services that allows farmers and producers to “get in the mix.” Furthermore, food hubs are filling a market niche and demonstrating innovative business models that be make a difference in local and regional communities.
No matter where you live, your food hub impacts your access to food. Whereever you work, the distribution of food is affected by your business’ needs. What personal stories do you have regarding the access and/or supply of foods in your area?