State Leaders Take Interest in Regional Food Hubs

01/2/2012

By Patty Cantrell, Regional Food Solutions

Communities across the state are in varying stages of developing regional food hubs for business incubation, local food distribution, and more. The projects range from early planning discussions to buying or renovating buildings and setting up marketing and management structures.

Now the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is taking notice of this powerful undercurrent in one of the state’s largest industries.

On November 28, the MDARD gathered leaders of several regional food hub efforts from across the state in Lansing. The purpose of the day-long session was to gather input on next steps the MDARD should take, along with sister agencies, such as the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, to support these local food and farm business development efforts.

MDARD Director Keith Creagh told those gathered that interest and investment in regional food hubs is clearly growing. He also acknowledged a strong connection between the hub developments and innovative work that schools, hospitals, and others are doing to address health concerns with greater access to fresh and healthy food.

“A network of long-term, sustainable food hubs can help the state reach its health and wellness goals by increasing the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables in our state,” Creagh said.  “A food hub collaborate can also create new jobs in farming, food processing and other agri-business endeavors; and provide nutrition education, job training and business development opportunities for Michigan residents.”

Chief among the many suggestions MDARD received was the need to help local and regional food hub efforts connect with and learn from each other. The MDARD is now reviewing the feedback and planning a potential follow up gathering, as well.

For more information about the MDARD’s food hub effort, contact coordinator Jeanne Hausler at 517-373-9790, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). For more information about regional food hubs in general, check out this U.S. Department of Agriculture-sponsored Web site on the trend and examples from around the country.