What is a food hub?

3 Sep

In School dinner programs: Trying to reduce the number of hungry children, moi said:

There are some very good reasons why meals are provided at schools. Education Bug has a history of the school lunch program

President Harry S. Truman began the national school lunch program in 1946 as a measure of national security. He did so after reading a study that revealed many young men had been rejected from the World War II draft due to medical conditions caused by childhood malnutrition. Since that time more than 180 million lunches have been served to American children who attend either a public school or a non-profit private school.

In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson extended the program by offering breakfast to school children. It began as a two years pilot program for children in rural areas and those living in poorer neighborhoods. It was believed that these children would have to skip breakfast in order to catch the bus for the long ride to school. There were also concerns that the poorer families could not always afford to feed their children breakfast. Johnson believed, like many of us today, that children would do better in school if they had a good breakfast to start their day. The pilot was such a success that it was decided the program should continue. By 1975, breakfast was being offered to all children in public or non-profit private school. This change was made because educators felt that more children were skipping breakfast due to both parent being in the workforce.

In 1968, a summer meals program was offered to low income children. Breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks are still available to students each year, during the summer break. Any child in need can apply for the program at the end of the school year. Parents that are interested in the summer meals program should contact their local school administration.

Since its inception, the school lunch/meals programs have become available in more than 98,800 schools….

Hungry children have more difficulty in focusing and paying attention, their ability to learn is impacted. President Truman saw feeding hungry children as a key part of the national defense.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (Agriculture Department) has a School Lunch Program Fact Sheet According to the fact sheet, more than 30 million children are fed by the program. Physicians for Responsible Medicine criticize the content of school lunch programs. In Healthy School Lunches the physicians group says:         

Menus in most school lunch programs are too high in saturated fat and cholesterol and too low in fiber- and nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (see PCRM’s 2008 School Lunch Report Card). Major changes are needed to encourage the health of the nation’s youth and to reverse the growing trends of obesity, early-onset diabetes, and hypertension, among other chronic diseases, in children and teens.     

A 2003 General Accounting Office (GAO) reached the same conclusion. See, School Lunch Program: Efforts Needed to Improve Nutrition and Encourage and Healthy Eating

Gosia Wozniacka of AP reports in the article, ‘Food Hubs’ Connect School Districts with Farmers, which was posted at Huffington Post:

The new rules require among other things that school provide students at least a half cup of either a fruit or vegetable during lunch and at least a half cup of fruit during breakfast. And they must be served a wider variety of fresh produce every week, including leafy greens and red-orange vegetables.

Online companies, cooperatives and organizations helping connect local farmers and buyers have cropped up in recent years. Now these so-called food hubs are facilitating relationships between farmers and school districts.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/03/food-hubs-connect-school-_n_1851863.html?utm_hp_ref=education

Because of new rules for school lunches, food hubs are one way for school districts to a access affordable fruits and vegetables.

Farm Aid has some great resources regarding “food hubs.”

Food hubs are broadly defined as facilities that manage the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution or marketing of locally and regionally produced food. They fulfill from one to all of these functions and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. No matter their form, they are promising models for bringing family farm food to more Americans.

Most food hubs serve as a drop-off point for several farms in a region and a pick-up point for distribution streams and customers who want to buy food they can be sure came from local and regional family farmers. A great example is the Market Mobile program hosted by Farm Aid partner Farm Fresh Rhode Island. Market Mobile is a pooled farm-to-business delivery system that facilitates buying relationships between area farmers and business buyers and institutions. Market Mobile provides year-round delivery of a wide variety of farm fresh goods, including produce, local meat, seafood and dairy, from 40 local producers to chefs, schools and groceries in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Foods hubs often provide a management team that coordinates supply chain logistics, including finding new markets for producers and coordinating distributors, processors and buyers. That has been exemplified by groups like Red Tomato in the Northeast and Ecotrust in the Pacific Northwest, both Farm Aid partners.

Some food hubs have permanent facilities that offer equipment for food to be stored, processed, packed and even sold under a shared label. Some also offer technical and business planning assistance for farmers. Appalachian Sustainable Development in Virginia, also a Farm Aid partner, has exemplified this model, helping dozens of former tobacco producers transition into organic production and selling their goods under one Appalachian Harvest label.

A key element to the food hub model is that they’re based on cooperation. As U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan recently described in a speech about food hubs, “Producers are helping producers. Processors are helping processors. Distributors are helping distributors.” And she is hopeful about the future of food hubs, stating that “Food hubs are not a flash in the pan. They are incredibly innovative business models specifically addressing some of our producers’ most overwhelming challenges.”

Reaping the benefits

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that there are nearly 100 food hubs operating in the country today—a number that’s growing as more communities see the benefits of direct markets like farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture programs, and want to bring family farm food to more people in their area.

USDA recently conducted a vast study of these models and found some exciting stuff:

  1. Food hubs are creating economic opportunity and adding jobs in their communities.
  2. Food hubs are providing new market opportunities for our family farmers, helping them access wholesale markets they normally wouldn’t be able to reach
  3. Over 40% of today’s food hubs focus on bringing fresh, local food products to “food deserts” like some rural communities and urban neighborhoods where healthy, affordable food is generally difficult to obtain.

What Farm Aid’s doing

Of course, these findings are not surprising to us here at Farm Aid.

Last year, we released our report, Rebuilding America’s Economy with Family Farm-Centered Food Systems, to broadcast the vast potential of models like food hubs in bringing prosperity to communities across America at a time when we’re all scratching our heads about the best way to move our economy forward. Local and regional food systems development, including the creation of food hubs, is an essential way to support our whole society—from the ground up! http://www.farmaid.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=qlI5IhNVJsE&b=2723877&ct=9376047

The challenge is getting kids to eat the food mandated by the rules and for school districts to find “kid tasty” foods which are affordable. A Child’s health is too important to be the subject of tawdry political wrangling and high pressure tactics from big money interests. Our goal as a society should be:

A healthy child in a healthy family who attends a healthy school in a healthy neighborhood ©


UPCOMING CONFERENCE Growing Health 2012, Oct 16-17, Binghamton, NY
The NGFN Food Hub Collaboration, and many others, will be presenting at this event, exploring the intersection of local food systems and health. More info at the Growing Health conference site.

NGFN Webinars

Some webinars we’ve hosted relevant to food hubs.

>>> See our UPCOMING free webinar topics  >>>

Food Hub Center                                                            http://www.ngfn.org/resources/food-hubs

Farm Aid                                                                                                   http://www.farmaid.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=qlI5IhNVJsE&b=2723877&ct=9376047

Farmers Markets and Local Food Marketing                     http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/foodhubs


School dinner programs: Trying to reduce the number of hungry children                                                                  https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/01/28/school-dinner-programs-trying-to-reduce-the-number-of-hungry-children/

School lunches: The political hot potato https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/school-lunches-the-political-hot-potato/

The government that money buys: School lunch cave in by Congress                                                             https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/the-government-that-money-buys-school-lunch-cave-in-by-congress/

Do kids get enough time to eat lunch?                               https://drwilda.com/2012/08/28/do-kids-get-enough-time-to-eat-lunch/

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

One Response to “What is a food hub?”


  1. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Report: Improving access to school lunches « drwilda - September 9, 2012

    […] What is a food hub?                                                            https://drwilda.com/2012/09/03/what-is-a-food-hub/ […]

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