Food Hub Resources

 
 
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 Food Hubs.
Purpose of a food hub

A food hub provides the means for Alberta direct marketing producers and small scale food processors to get their products to market. Food hubs are key mechanisms for creating consistent, reliable supplies of locally produced foods.

Definition
A food hub is a profitable and sustainable business model that actively manages the aggregation, logistical coordination, and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy year round wholesale, retail, and institutional market demand.

Additional food hub services may involve producer training and consumer education, optional storage and light processing if so equipped and licensed.

A food hub serves as a coordinating intermediary between regional producers and suppliers and customers, including institutions, food service firms, retail outlets and end consumers.

Food hubs work on the supply side with producers in areas such as sustainable production practices, production planning, season extension, packaging, branding, certification, and food safety to enable these producers to access wholesale customers, such as buyers for foodservice institutions and retail stores. Simultaneously, food hubs also work on the demand side by coordinating efforts with other distributors, processors, wholesale buyers, and direct to consumers to ensure they can meet the growing market demand for source-identified, sustainably produced, locally or regionally grown products.

Clarification of the definition terms:
1. Profitable: A food hub must be profitable regardless of the business structure (for-profit, not-for-profit, etc.). Profitability is required to obtain and maintain producer involvement and ensure long term sustainability. Offering imported food products in the off season is one strategy that may enhance year round profitability and sustainability.
2. Logistical coordination: At the core of food hubs is a business management team that actively coordinates supply chain logistics including product sourcing, storage, warehousing, distribution, invoicing, etc.

Best Practices Guidebooks


Other factsheets and resources:
  • The National Good Food Network (NGFN) has pulled together a number of web resources on food hubs that may be of interest to those interested in pursuing this opportunity.
  • Conducting a feasibility study is a crucial first step when embarking on a new venture. A feasibility study carefully examines the context into which the new undertaking would fit and attempts to determine its likelihood of success. The National Good Food Network hosted a webinar that stepped through two food hub feasibility studies illustrating how to assess potential food hub ventures.
  • The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has published a food hub resource guide. This guide describes the impact food hubs have on regional food systems as well as the resources available to support their growth and development.
  • The USDA has developed a series of booklets to help those interested in starting and running a food hub.
    • The first publication is titled Running a Food Hub: Lessons Learned from the Field. This document is a result of interviews conducted with several food hubs across the United States and represents their diversity in organization type, product offerings, operating structures and missions.
    • The second publication, Running a Food Hub: A Business Operations Guide, provides best practice information on running a food hub. The information is a compilation of best practices gleaned from food hubs across the United States.
    • The third publication, Running a Food Hub: Assessing Financial Viability, provides financial benchmarks for different stages of business development so that hubs can assess their own financial viability and assist in making strategic business decisions.
    • The third publication, Running a Food Hub: Learning from Food Hub Closures, draws on national data and case studies to understand why some food hubs have failed in an effort to learn from their mistakes and identify general lessons so new and existing food hubs can overcome barriers to success.
 
 
 
 
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Eileen Kotowich.
This document is maintained by Abby Verstraete.
This information published to the web on October 18, 2013.
Last Reviewed/Revised on May 2, 2016.