While there are many local-centric models, like CSAs (community supported agriculture), that remove the middleman and bring the farm directly into the kitchen, regional food hubs are the missing link that fosters local support for small and micro farms. This missing link is recognized as a strategy for nurturing food businesses in cities. Not only do food hubs provide a market outlet for many food producers, they also restore and strengthen local food systems. In fact, regional food hubs may be the next step to taking “good food” mainstream. As defined by the National Food Hub Collaboration,
"A 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 in order to satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demand."
There are many reasons that food hubs can be beneficial in our local food system. Food hubs:
- Increase the knowledge and information customers have of local food production, and in turn these customers can better support their local economy.
- Promote healthy options for consumers by offering fruits, vegetables, and local products that do not contain added harmful chemicals.
- Increase transparency so customers know where their food comes from and the practices used by farmers.
- Reduce food miles by selling only local food since food travels longer distances with commercial distributors and grocers.
- Build a stronger economy where more money stays within the local economy because all transactions will be from either local farms or consumers at a local store front.
"Regional food hubs make local food movements a reality; by rebuilding local infrastructure they provide a critical bridge between producer and consumer." - Douglas Gayeton
Food hubs can take on many forms. Some local examples from Arizona include:
Hayden Flour Mills works with many small farms across the state to grow and revive heritage grains that grew in Arizona in the as far back as the late 1800s. They aggregate grains from their farmers including white Sonora wheat and mill them to make flours using a traditional stonemill.
Crooked Sky Farms has several farms throughout Arizona. The different farms offers Crooked Sky the ability to grow in produce in complimentary growing seasons. This also allows them to produce a wider variety of produce year-round.
Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona receives daily shipments of food donations from local businesses and farmers. Once all of the food is at a central location, the food bank combines the donated food into personal packages to feed the hungry.
Learn more at The Lexicon of Food | Regional Food Hub