Regional food hub feasibility studies launched
The Greater Kansas City Food Hub Working Group and the Douglas County Food Policy Council are surveying buyers and growers across Kansas and Missouri to assess the type and quantity of supply and demand that exists in the region, establish key features and services, and uncover any obstacles that may hinder the success of any food hubs that are developed.
If you are a potential buyer of produce from a food hub, or a producer that may be interested in selling produce a food hub, please take this survey for growers or this survey for buyers by Jan. 17, 2014, to make your voice heard in this decision making process. Buyers include produce retailers, distributors, restaurants, and institutions with food service operations. Growers are any producers of fruits, vegetables, meat, grains, dairy, or value-added products. Buyers and producers from the south central Kansas area are encouraged to participate.
The food hub working group and the food policy council are working together to study the feasibility of developing food hubs in the region. Both groups initiated separate studies to evaluate the potential for food hub infrastructure in 2013, and have joined efforts in a collaborative approach to research that will benefit the whole regional food system. The year-long studies will shed light on trends in institutional purchasing of locally produced food and growers’ production capabilities and volume. The studies will identify and begin to address obstacles growers face in scaling up food production to meet the increasing demands of institutional purchasers, which include hospitals, schools and food distributors.
Food hubs are businesses that manage the packaging, storage, processing, distribution, and marketing of locally produced food in order to help farmers with small operations move their products to a broader market. This innovative business model can take on many forms depending on the needs of the farmers and their customers. Some are permanent facilities where farmers deliver their harvest for packaging and distribution. Others operate virtually, with the use of computer software to organize the flow of products from farm to market.
Whatever form they take, the goals of regional food hubs are to increase farm revenue, production of fresh produce, meat, dairy, grains and other goods, and to improve the health of Kansas and Missouri’s people and its economy.
Advisory bodies for both the Greater KC Food Hub Working Group and the Douglas County Food Policy Council will receive final reports in June 2014 which will recommend food hub operating model solutions. Local groups in Sedgwick County are also looking forward to the results to help determine the future potential of a food hub in south central Kansas. Whether it is a single facility or a network of food hubs, all of this research also has broader implications:
“We’ve convened the Midwest Regional Food Hub Partnership with other food hub initiatives, and are coordinating our efforts with these partners so we’ll all have consistent data—about production capacities, existing distribution systems and the shared characteristics of institutions that want to purchase local food, for instance,” said Emily Lucas, local project coordinator for the Greater KC food hub feasibility study.
“Understanding those complexities at a regional scale will help us paint an accurate picture of our regional food system and give us an immense foundation for other work needed to improve it further,” said Lucas.