Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan Tuesday announced the release of a report which provides a comprehensive look at the economic role, challenges and opportunities for food hubs in the nation's growing local food movement.
Merrigan made the announcement during a visit to Hollygrove Market and Farm, a produce market, local distributor and farm in downtown New Orleans. The food hub sources products from twenty local growers across southern Louisiana and Mississippi. The organization first began operations as part of the city's post-Hurricane Katrina rebuilding efforts.
Merrigan said operations like Hollygrove are an example of how food hubs can be organized.
"At USDA we are committed to food hubs because we believe that they offer strong and sound infrastructure support to producers across the country which will also help build stronger regional food systems," Merrigan said.
With an increasing demand for fresh, local foods, the report finds that the success of food hubs is rapidly expanding, with well over 200 food hubs now operating in the United States. They are a part of a distribution system designed to move locally produced food into mainstream markets by supplying chains for goods to go from farms to the table efficiently.
USDA's working definition of 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".
Food hubs have been supported by state and federal efforts including USDA programs like Rural Business Enterprise Grant, Rural Business Opportunity Grant, Value-Added Producer Grant, and the Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program.
USDA Rural Development's Cooperative grants can be used to support building local food systems infrastructure. Many USDA supported programs are also part of the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative. This Initiative coordinates Department wide efforts and work on local and regional food systems.
More information about USDA's work on food hubs is available at www.ams.usda.gov/foodhubs.