Impact Spotlight: Local food hubs connect communities and producers

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April 27, 2016

Impact Spotlight: Local food hubs connect communities and producers

local food

Less than two percent of Americans today live on farms and ranches, contributing to a disconnect between food producers and consumers. However, consumers have a growing interest in learning more about where their food comes from and connecting with farmers and ranchers in their region.

Regional food hubs manage the collection, distribution and marketing of food products, primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy consumer demand. However, the lack of distribution systems is one of the main roadblocks to local foods moving into mainstream markets. NIFA-funded projects are addressing this food distribution issue in food-insecure communities by creating new local food hubs.

The Molokai Food Hub (MFH) addresses the food insecurity of its 7,000-person community on the island of Molokai, Hawaii. An estimated 80-90 percent of the food in Molokai grocery stores is imported via barge, and families bear the transportation costs in high food prices. In addition, the high rate of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases among Native Hawaiian and Pacific Island populations have been attributed to unhealthy dietary choices, especially a lack of fresh fruits and vegetables. The food hub focuses on these issues by providing outreach and education around buying, preparing, and eating more local, fresh foods – which also increases demand for local food products.  To help increase supply of local food products, MFH offers training, support, production planning, and marketing for island farmers.

A food hub in Foley, Ala., uses a local farmer and fisherman market as a base for their food hub initiative. The operation, Fresh from Foley, teams up with local producers, distributers and farmers to collect, package, and ship locally grown produce to local restaurants, schools, and grocery stores.

Chicago’s Farmers for Chicago program assists low-income, underserved populations by increasing the availability of high-quality, locally-produced, and culturally-appropriate food throughout Chicago. Farmers for Chicago provides resources for new urban farmers and the infrastructure they need to grow and distribute locally grown produce year round.

Finally, Common Market Food, based in Philadelphia, works to ensure that the food needs of all residents in the Philadelphia metropolitan area are met and that local farmers have a viable alternative to the mainstream food distribution network. The market connects wholesale customers to about 75 producers in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware who deliver to almost 150 public and private schools, colleges and universities, hospitals, workplaces, grocery stores, nonprofits, and faith institutions throughout the Delaware Valley, six days a week.

For more NIFA impacts, visit or the Land-Grant University Impacts website. Send us your NIFA-funded impacts at or share them with USDA_NIFA on Twitter #NIFAimpacts.

NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education and extension and seeks to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges.