National Food Hub Survey Findings Published


Results of the 2013 National Food Hub Survey, one of the most comprehensive data sets on food hubs to date, show that food hubs are positive forces for jobs, local economies, and food access in their communities. Micaela Fischer, a graduate affiliate of Michigan State University’s Center for Regional Food Systems was the lead author of the survey and report. The Center and the Wallace Center at Winrock International have been collaborating since fall 2012 to develop and conduct the survey, which sought to identify economic growth trends for food hubs across the nation as well as monitor services offered and variety of customers served.

Results from over 100 food hubs surveyed show that these organizations, which manage aggregation, distribution, and marketing of local and source-identified food products, are continuing to grow and develop as financially viable businesses. Key Findings from the survey indicate that food hubs are:

· Financially viable. Sixty-six percent of food hubs operate independently from outside funding sources.

· Contributing significantly to the growth of their local economies. The average food hub’s sales in 2012 exceeded $3.7 million.

· Creating jobs. The average food hub employs 19 paid positions.

· Supporting regional producers. The average food hub worked with 80 producers (i.e., farms and ranches), the majority of which are small or midsized.

· Contributing to food access. Nearly half of all food hubs have operational commitments to equity, increasing food access and/or community development.

In a recent webinar based on the findings of the survey, Evan Smith, senior operations manager at Cherry Capital Foods in Traverse City, said that a major advantage of the study was that it gave producers and consumers actual data on how much local food is being sourced in their area.

“So much of the ag data is self-reported, it hasn’t ever really been treated as a true economic driver in our communities, and we are having a real hard time pulling any data,” he said. “So this survey report is just a great, great step in the right direction.”

In Michigan, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development provided funding for five food hubs in 2012. There are 11 designated food hub consultants throughout Michigan that provide organizational and technical assistance for hubs in specific regions. These consultants are part of the Michigan Food Hub Learning and Innovation Network, which facilitates increased learning, innovation and profitability as well as business to business collaboration among food hubs.

For more information on this survey project, contact Rich Pirog at CRFS or Jeff Farbman at the Wallace Center at Winrock International.