- A New Public-Private Collaboration United Around Food Hubs
- Food Safety Report
- Healthy Urban Food Development (HUFED) Center Grantee Profile: GrowNYC
- Good Food Media Digest
- Add your profile to the NGFN Database
- NGFN Media Outlets
Contributing writer: Kathleen Stewart
The Role of Food Hubs
a centrally located facility with a business management system that facilitates the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution and/or marketing of locally or regionally produced food products.
By providing wider access to institutional and retail markets for small to mid-sized producers, food hubs create new jobs along the food value chain. Food hubs are a “hot topic” since they hold promise to address the increased demand for locally and regionally produced food and to improve healthy food access in urban and rural communities across the nation with strong potential to reach underserved areas and food deserts.
USDA AMS believes that a key element of a food hub is the coordination services it provides (captured in the word “facilitates,” in the USDA definition in the sidebar). Services can be grower or community-focused. On the grower side, food hubs can offer business development services, quality control guidance and market development to help more growers reach wholesale markets. For consumers, they can improve access by offering SNAP benefit sign-up at the market, EBT and WIC technologies, or coordinating mobile markets to name just a few.
A New Partnership Begins
To support food hubs, the Wallace Center at Winrock International recently began a Cooperative Agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) on behalf of the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Regional Food Hub Subcommittee. This partnership is further strengthened by members of Wallace Center’s National Good Food Network, Project for Public Spaces (PPS) and the National Association for Produce Market Managers. John Fisk, Director of the Wallace Center at Winrock International indicates the importance of this partnership. He says that “This is the first step in an important partnership with the USDA and other collaborators to support the development of food hubs. We believe they are an effective strategy for addressing the growing need for infrastructure and supply chain support which enables small and mid-sized producers wider access to retail, institutional, and commercial food service markets to scale up their operations.”
The first phase of this cooperative agreement focuses on identifying existing or potential food hubs. Once the hubs are identified, many will be interviewed to learn about the opportunities and challenges involved with their development. Errol Bragg, Marketing Services Division Director at AMS states, “We see this partnership with the Wallace Center, Project for Public Spaces, and the National Association of Produce Market Managers as part of our ongoing work to discover successful food hubs around the country and identify the opportunities they bring to opening more markets for small and mid-size producers while also increasing healthy food access across rural and urban communities.”
Learning from Key Stakeholders
To understand what produce markets around the country are already doing to facilitate the movement of local and regional products through the supply chain, the partnership held a stakeholder meeting with the National Association of Produce Market Managers (NAPMM) in Philadelphia last week. NAPMM's mission is to improve and strengthen the economic health and vitality of year-round, permanent, wholesale produce markets, retail farmers' markets and public markets. This meeting gave the partnership an opportunity to understand how these markets are already participating in activities involved with food hubs, what activities these markets see as opportunities and the key steps and challenges that need to be overcome to make these opportunities a reality. Ben Vitale, President of NAPMM says, “We appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with the USDA, the Wallace Center, and Project for Public Spaces to share the great work that NAPMM members have done over the years, and continue to do around food hubs and to identify strengths and opportunities to increase the amount of healthy food brought into our communities.”
Food Hubs Meeting the Needs of Producers and Communities
A key effort will be to understand the successes and challenges for food hubs to better serve communities and increase access to fresh healthy foods. Project for Public Spaces is a nonprofit planning, design and educational organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities. The goal of their Public Market Program is to foster the role of public markets in reconnecting local economies and communities and to support the pivotal role markets play in supporting public health and local food systems. This focus area makes them a vital partner in helping to identify public markets that are implementing food hub components that provide services to their community.
In addition, this partnership will work to further understand how community-centered public markets can serve their communities while also benefiting producers. Steve Davies, Senior Vice President for PPS says, “This work provides an opportunity for Public Markets to expand their capacity to provide fresh, local food to underserved communities, linking the needs of low income communities to create sustainable regional food systems.”
The Overarching Goal
This first phase work will lead to a more in-depth analysis of food hubs including site visits and case studies to ultimately develop a regional food hub resource guide to share the results of the work and identify existing or potential resources to support food hub development such as technical assistance, grants, or loans. Errol Bragg explains that the resource guide provides an outlet “to share and report out the opportunities that Food Hubs are providing around strengthening local and regional food systems.”
How You Can Help
As the partnership moves forward, it will be vital to identify food hubs that exist or are in the beginning stages to fully understand the opportunities and challenges they face. If you are conducting or in the process of beginning this type of work, either through a central facility or virtually, please take a moment to fill out this form. If you know of other organizations that are doing this work, please pass on this information.
Federal Policy Update
S510: The Food Safety Modernization Act: Senator Reid has called for cloture and the vote will be taken a few days after Senate return for lame duck session, scheduled for November 17th. As I mentioned in previous columns, S510 is a great improvement over the House bill, passed many months ago.
The Tester-Hagan amendment, which creates a reduced set of requirements for direct market and identity-preserved farms and small and very small food facilities is continuing to be fine-tuned. Hopes that the amendment would be added to the Managers bill, which is the copy that goes to the floor for vote, were given a boost when consumer groups again came out firing against the amendment.
NGFN partner organization NSAC continues to hold a strong position in the discussion and is the go to source for information about family farmer positions regarding food safety. Visit the NSAC site for more information, and to read their recommended actions.
USDA/FSIS: The National Advisory Committee on Meat & Poultry Inspection (NACMPI)
The first meeting of the newly appointed advisory committee was held on September 29-30 at the USDA in Washington, DC. These are public meetings and were fairly well attended by groups, especially consumer groups, with an interest in the work of the committee as well as some media.
One subcommittee focused on data issues associated with the new Public Health Information System (PHIS), a systematic improvement to the way USDA gathers and disseminates information from its inspections and research. Consumer group representatives were very keen to have access to all data about every inspected facility. They were advocating for a grading system for facilities, creating a "hierarchy" (like a "grade point average"), rather than a simle "pass/fail" system. This would cause food safety to be a competitive quality in which consumers support the safest and avoid the less safe companies.
Since I was at this meeting, I spoke up to rebut this idea. I explained that if food safety became a "marketing quality", then the most vulnerable and economically disadvantaged citizens would end up eating the least safe food. It is clear to me that food safety must be both pre-competitive and non-competitive.
Briefs (email email@example.com for more information):
FDA Produce handling guideline request: Comment period has passed. FDA reported receiving over 900 comments and most seem to have been from the sustainable agriculture and direct marketing communities. FDA plans to release its draft “produce rule” sometime in late spring or early summer 2011. At that time a lengthy comment period will ensue.
GAP Harmonization initiative: The draft Produce GAP Standard has been published by United Fresh. Here is the draft standard, and the blog where you can place comments. The final planned meeting of the GAP Harmonization Committee was held at Costco Headquarters at Issaquah, Washington on October 21-22.
Wild Farm Alliance initiative to support Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS): NRCS has approved the WFA CIG grant proposal. WFA is now moving into planning and implementation mode.
Familyfarmed.org on farm food safety planning tool: FamilyFarmed.org reports that it has received funding from USDA RME to continue to next steps in the development of its on-farm food safety planning tool
Global GAP group: has launched its blog and NGFN Food Safety coordinator is a regular contributor
CFSC RMA Food Safety and Liability project: I presented on a panel at the recent Community Food Security Coalition conference. My pre-conference track was entitled “Short Course on Liability and Food Safety issues” October 16, 2010. The materials offered by all of the presenters is available.
GrowNYC is Creating a Food Hub
Wholesale farmers markets in NYC have long played a critical role in supplying fresh local products to urban wholesalers and retailers. However, as all sectors of food industries have consolidated, wholesale farmers markets have each year become scarcer. Despite this, a loose confederation of approximately 30 regional growers continued to sell, year after year, near the Bronx Terminal Market. These growers form a strong core, but to become a linchpin in the region’s agricultural supply chain and meet rapidly increasing demand from diverse buyers for an array of local foods, more farmers are needed.
The GrowNYC HUFED project aims to revitalize the Wholesale Greenmarket (WGM), New York City’s only market for direct wholesaling of local farm fresh products targeted to retailers, restaurants, institutional food service, food processors, and community based organizations. GrowNYC (formerly the Council on the Environment of NYC), the market’s current manager, will recruit dedicated, expert staff to strategically grow the market’s supply and demand, creating a robust market that sustains itself financially, supports small/mid scale regional farms, increases farmers’ capacity to supply diverse wholesale food buyers, and ensures New Yorkers’ access to fresh, affordable, local food. To do this, the Wallace HUFED Center granted a one year Large Enterprise grant to GrowNYC.
The WGM project targets two very different underserved communities, one urban and one rural: residents of NYC food desert areas, and small and mid-size farmers who currently lack appropriate markets but who could provide these high-need urban neighborhoods with affordable fresh foods. This project seeks to build these communities’ capacities to support each other.
A strengthened WGM will benefit participating regional farmers who will see increased market sales and improved market management services; residents of the neighborhood surrounding the market (the Bronx’s Hunts Point area) who will have direct-to-consumer access to the market on Saturdays; residents of NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) designated “high need” food desert neighborhoods targeted by WGM programming ; and other NYC residents who will have increased access to local foods from the WGM through retailers (including bodegas and small groceries) who shop there. The work’s benefits and learnings will be amplified nationwide as the research and the resulting tools are shared with farmers markets (wholesale and retail) and other related organizations throughout the country.
For more information about the Healthy Urban Food Development (HUFED) Center, visit hufed.org.
Pioneering Grass-Based Dairy Seeing Greater Demand and Interest in Omega 3-Rich Pastured Milk
“Grass Point Farms, a third-party certified dairy company that markets dairy products sourced from dairy farmers who rotationally graze their cows and ensure the cows eat more grass than grain, has experienced over 60% growth in their sales in 2010.”
“Two premium chicken producers, Bell & Evans in Pennsylvania and Mary’s Chickens in California, are preparing to switch to a system of killing their birds that they consider more humane. The new system uses carbon dioxide gas to gently render the birds unconscious before they are hung by their feet to have their throats slit, sparing them the potential suffering associated with conventional slaughter methods.”
The Field Guide to the New American Foodshed
“The Farm Credit Council, the trade organization for the farmer-owned Farm Credit System, was recently awarded a grant by the Risk Management Agency to produce written and web-based material using case studies to explain how local food systems work in the real world of business and economics, called the ‘Field Guide to the New American Foodshed.’ With this field guide, beginning farmers, ranchers and entrepreneurs will be able to identify different food system business models as they come across them, along with detailed explanations of their business structures and related resources.”
Slow Food's Conference: Sustaining the Sustainability Crusaders
“Terra Madre was created by Slow Food in 2004. After Slow Food's more than 15 years of supporting small producers and preserving sustainable food production and local traditions, the need for the organization to unite producers and decision-makers of all kinds became obvious. And so began a biannual gathering of producers, consumers, academics, chefs, and other food-involved entities. It is a unique network that allows producers to be more visible to decision-makers, and which both raises awareness about the value of their work and challenges the systems threatening local foods.”
New Guide to Environmental Markets for Farmers and Ranchers
“[American Farmland Trust’s] Guide to Environmental Markets for Farmers and Ranchers explains how producers can sell environmental services generated on their farms while continuing their normal farming operations.”
IDF Launches Common Carbon Footprint Methodology for Global Dairy Sector
“All sectors are being challenged to quantify and reduce their carbon footprints, or emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), and businesses in agriculture and food production are no exception. As part of the dairy sector’s action agenda on climate change, the IDF has now published ‘A Common Carbon Footprint Approach for Dairy – The IDF Guide to Standard Lifecycle Assessment Methodology for the Dairy Sector’.”
Federal report faults farmers' Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts
“Seeming to contradict assertions by farmers that they're doing their share to protect the Chesapeake Bay, a new federal report finds major shortcomings in what crop growers are doing across the six-state region to keep from polluting the troubled estuary.”
FARM TO SCHOOL
USDA Highlights Farm to School Pilot in Boise, Idaho
“BOISE, Idaho, Oct. 19, 2010 – USDA Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Deputy Under Secretary Janey Thornton today saluted Idaho's efforts to support farm to school programs, a key component of USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative to help children across America get a better understanding of where their food comes from and how it gets to their plates in the school cafeteria.”
Farmers Markets: Transparency is Our Model
“On October 15th, the trade publication The Packer reported on an issue of growing concern for farmers market vendors and shoppers: grocery chains are copy-catting farmers markets by using “farmers market” signs outside of their stores.”
Call Your Senators Today To Defend Family Farm Value Added – Processing and Local and Regional Food Systems
“Debate and voting on The Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) is set to begin on the Senate floor on November 17th. The bill takes important steps to improve corporate food safety rules but it is not appropriate for small farms and processors that sell to restaurants, food coops, groceries, schools, wholesalers and at farm stands and farmers markets.”
FDA, USDA, Cornell University Announce Alliance for Produce Safety
"On Thursday, November 4, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA/AMS), and Cornell University announced the creation of a public-private organization, the Produce Safety Alliance, which will provide produce growers and packagers with on-farm food safety knowledge and develop an information bank of up-to-date scientific and technical information related to on-farm and packinghouse produce safety."
Delivering the goods: Food exchange gets farm products to market, and hopes to add services
“And therein lies the renaissance. Started a year and a half ago by Jonathan Kemp of Jamaica Plain and Bruce Kirk of Lexington, the company has built a system for distributing food from small companies and farmers that has taken advantage of the locavore movement.”
Walmart wants Iowans to farm by its principles
“Never mind the government regulators. When it comes to influencing the way farmers grow their crops, the real power someday may be Walmart, the nation's largest food retailer. Walmart pledges to double sales of locally grown food by 2015 and also is taking steps to ensure that all the food it sells is produced in sustainable ways. Walmart wants to measure and set farm-to-fork standards for the energy and natural resource impacts of food production.”
School nutrition bill could be revived in Congress
“Michelle Obama's campaign for healthier school lunches could be revived in Congress after two key Democrats said they will drop opposition to using funding from food stamps to pay for it.”
2010 Midterm Elections: Results from Ag Perspective
“[Here] is a quick take on 2010 election results for the Agriculture Committees and the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees in the House and Senate. Should anything change as a result of late tabulations or recounts, we will issue a revised story.”
The elephant in this year's gubernatorial debates has been Vermont's dynamic agricultural economy
“Campaigns create a lot of talk about the economy. So it’s strange to me that during this election season, a big factor in our state’s economy seems to generate little discussion: the food system”
FOOD ACCESS / FOOD JUSTICE
Farm foods transform local ‘food drought’
“St. Christopher’s Foundation for Children recently launched Farm to Families, a program that offers fresh food to families in North Philadelphia. The program allows families to pick up and place orders from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Temple Presbyterian Church at Seventh and Thompson streets.”
Youth and Food Justice: Lessons from the Civil Rights Movement
“The food justice movement is entering a new period of opportunity. Good, fresh, healthy food ison the agenda in underserved neighborhoods and even First Lady, Michelle Obama has planted anorganic garden and taken on childhood obesity with her Let’s Move! campaign. But fair and affordable fresh food at 4,000 farmers markets and hundreds of CSAs, with double digit annual growth in organic food over the last 20 years, represents under two percent of the trillion dollar food market.”
NIFA Now Accepting Proposals to the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program
“WASHINGTON, Oct. 28, 2010 – USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is now accepting grant proposals to the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program (BFRDP) for projects to provide education, training, mentoring and internships to beginning farmers and ranchers that will help them run successful and sustainable farms.”
Source: http://www.nifa.usda.gov/newsroom/news/2010news/10281_bfrdp_11.html (and see below for related instructional webinar)
USDA to Host Grant Writing Webinar for Beginning Farmer & Rancher Development Program
“On November 22, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture will host a webinar on how to write grants for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). The webinar, lasting from 2:00-3:30pm (EDT), will discuss the program, eligibility, changes in FY 2011, and major “dos” and “don’ts” of writing proposals.”
USDA Announces Community Food Project Awards
“Today, October 27, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the recipients of the 2010 Community Food Projects grants, administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The grants are intended to help build community food systems and fight hunger and food insecurity in low-income communities.”
Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners Conference, November 19-21, Brooklyn, New York
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project Farmer to Farmer Conference, December 9, 2010, Sturbirdge, MA.
Brownfields 2011: Sustainability Starts Here, April 3-5 2011, Philadelphia, PA.
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