Coalition Report

By Melissa Vatterott,
Food and Farm Coordinator
Missouri Coalition for the Environment

Food Hubs: A Tool for Building up Our Local Food Economy

Local food is rising in popularity as people learn to appreciate fresh, seasonal flavors. But how can we expand local food options beyond farmers markets and specialty displays at supermarkets? Food hubs are entities that help local producers get their products to various food purchasing institutions, such as grocery stores, restaurants, and schools.

They provide a location for aggregation, processing, distribution, and promotion, expanding opportunities to market. For example, if a grocery store needs 300 pounds of tomatoes, and farmer Joe only has 25 pounds, typically he would be out of luck. But if Joe partners with several other tomato farmers, together they may be able to aggregate their produce and sell to the store. Often food hubs provide distribution, too. Rather than individual farmers each driving to a market with their products, food hubs allow for all of their products to be transported together, saving farmers time and decreasing their environmental footprint. Additionally, food hubs can provide processing, which is particularly important for schools wanting to buy local products. In many schools, cafeteria kitchens do not have the appliances necessary to prepare whole foods. Food hubs can process and prepare fresh local products for schools, such as making applesauce from local apples, helping to support good nutrition for local children. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture “strong farm to school programs can increase the number of students purchasing school breakfast and lunch, improve consumption of healthier foods at school, and reduce plate waste.”

Current aggregation, processing and distribution activities in the St. Louis region include St. Louis University’s commercial kitchen, Fair Shares CCSA, and farmer Todd Geisert’s Farm to You Market and Distribution Center. The St. Louis Food Policy Coalition coordinated by MCE is working to expand upon these opportunities. A strong local food system presents an alternative to our industrialized food system, which is currently composed of factory farms and processed foods that are bad for our health.

You can learn more about the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition and food hubs by visiting www.moenvironment.org or contact Melissa at mvatterott@moenviron.org.