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Food Hubs and Farm to School

Food hubs hold great promise to help farm to school programs and food service professionals get good, healthy, local, whole foods to our nation's students.


Farm to school programs have been very successful at getting good, healthy, local, whole foods to our nation's students. However, some schools and districts find that their school food service professionals, who already have so many responsibilities, have limited time and resources for managing food aggregation logistics. Food hubs hold great promise to help.

In Chicago, Gourmet Gorilla focuses its operations on the school market. With convenient online ordering for schools either on a monthly or daily basis, Gourmet Gorilla offers healthy, sustainable, local food sourced from many different area suppliers. And because Gourmet Gorilla is founded on providing food with values, there is assurance that what is served to the kids is wholesome and good.

In Michigan, Cherry Capital Foods, a food hub with diverse markets, counts schools as an important one. They have had excellent successes, such as a large contract with traditional foodservice provider Chartwells, becoming a USDA approved vendor, and a partnership with a local nonprofit in a farm to school project.

These examples of food hubs enabling farm to school are sure to inspire you to consider working with your area food hubs for your work.



Presenter Bios

Evan SmithEvan Smith

Evan Smith has over 35 years experience in international and domestic food distribution and logistics.  Prior to joining Cherry Capital Foods as the Senior Operations Manager in early 2009, he spent 8 years as the CFO of Food For Thought, where he continues on a consulting basis as Vice President. He serves on the Farmer Task Force of the Michigan Food Policy Council, the Traverse City Food and Farm Network, and is on the board of the Grand Traverse Foodshed Alliance.

Kelly LivelyKelly Lively

Kelly Lively has led Cherry Capital Foods to become a national leader in bringing local, healthy foods into schools.  Over the past four years she has built sales to Michigan schools from only a few thousand to nearly $100K in the month of September 2013 alone.  This past year Lively brokered a deal between CCF and Chartwells Food Service to bring farm products – mostly apples and other fruit from farms in the Grand Rapids region – to 144 schools across Michigan’s lower peninsula.  Lively has also led on the USDA Pilot Project to bring local fruit and vegetables into school cafeterias using entitlement dollars, securing the project’s contract for apples in Michigan. 

Lively not only connects the farms with the food service agency, but she manages personal relationships with school food service directors, helping them incorporate more fresh local produce into school lunches while meeting new USDA rules. She provides weekly communications with schools, and introduces ideas to make local food fun such as Michigan’s “Apple Crunch!” Day this October 24th.

Lively came to CCF with real-world experience bringing more local, nutritious food into the kitchen of her local school. After working to initiate local food fundraisers, and support the food service director and superintendent in providing more fresh, healthy cafeteria menus, she recognized that ‘farm to school ‘ was her passion.

Upon learning of a new business called Cherry Capital Foods, Lively wrote a letter to the company, expressing a desire to be part of a business working to rebuild a local food system. Within a month she was hired, and began building new business with schools.

Lively is a native Michigander, who grew up in Metro Detroit and completed a B.S. in 

Microbiology from Colorado State University in 1990.  After graduation she moved back to northwest Lower Michigan with her two young daughters and worked for two years as an inorganic Chemist for a water quality laboratory.  In 1992 she was elected as the Leelanau County Drain Commissioner, which shifted her focus to surface water runoff management. In this position she developed and passed the county’s first storm water ordinance, which is still in effect today. Lively served two terms as Drain Commissioner.

Following the birth of her fourth daughter, she shifted careers again and started a specialty flower farm and florist design business called “Leelanau Flowers “. While raising her four daughters, Lively also operated this local business. Lively continues to live in Leelanau County and is married to Jim Lively, Program Director at the Michigan Land Use Institute.

Jason WeedonJason Weedon

Confronting growing childhood obesity and diabetes epidemics, in addition to a lack of access to healthy food in schools, Jason Weedon was inspired to start Gourmet Gorilla with his wife Danielle, to create a source for healthier, better tasting meals in schools in the Chicagoland area. At the same time, he also identified a lack of a robust local and sustainable food system to support the option of healthier meals. Gourmet Gorilla was created as a way to solve both of these issues. Jason previously spent 12 years in environmental consulting, and received his MA in geology from the University of Aberdeen, UK. He is a member of the Great Lake Food Hub Network and through his leadership at Gourmet Gorilla, was awarded a 2011 HUFED, USDA grant to bring fresh produce programs to underserved areas using schools as hubs. Jason’s work centers around helping build healthier bodies and minds in our schools, and creating innovative ways to produce healthier meals and source more sustainable ingredients from our local food system.

Danielle HrzicDanielle Hrzic

Danielle and her husband, Jason Weedon, started Gourmet Gorilla in 2009 out of need to bring healthier meals to Chicago area schools. The idea hatched out of a 10×10 kitchen at their 1 year old son’s school, where the founders found limited access to healthy, cooked from scratch meals that used good ingredients. Danielle is an alumnus of St Ignatius High School in Chicago and the College of the Holy Cross, in Worcester, MA where she graduated with a MA in Physics & Fine Art. Prior to launching Gourmet Gorilla, Danielle worked in the financial services industry for 13 years in sales and management positions for John Hancock Financial Services and MetLife. More recently, Danielle was a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program in Chicago and the 2012 Rising Star Award recepient of the Women’s Business Development Council. Danielle is committed to providing access to healthy food for all children and working with community partners to provide solid nutrition to help children learn and grow.

Another Food Hub Doing Farm to School

Holmes County Food Hub

New North Florida HubThe Wallace Center was pleased to participate in the grand opening of the Holmes County Food Hub on Thursday, August 1, 2013 in the small rural community of Sand Hills, outside of Durant, Mississippi. About 30 people attended from all over Mississippi, the Deep South region, and nationally.

The Holmes County Food Hub was developed through a partnership between the Wallace Center and the New North Florida Cooperative that is assisting limited resource and historically disadvantaged farmers in accessing local fresh fruit and vegetable markets via the Increasing Farmer Success in the Deep South project, made possible with funding from the Walmart Foundation.

Though the Holmes County Food Hub officially launched this month, it has been aggregating from its network of 25 small- to medium-scale farmers serving farm to school programs in the Deep South for the past year. The hub’s primary market is the growing number of schools interested in local, fresh, healthy food for school lunches and other meals. Children across Mississippi, in Memphis, TN, and other southern states are being served sweet potato sticks, collard greens, butternut squash, leafy greens, and turnips. To date, the food hub has supplied farm to school programs in 152 school districts with 1,097 schools and 336,113 students. That means fresh local healthy food in more than 60 million meals over the course of the coming school year! Sweet potato sticks are listed on the MS public school statewide vendor list, and the Holmes County Food Hub has exclusive rights to provide them to schools. Under the Department of Defense (DoD) Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program the hub will also sell to the state of MS more than 10,000 pounds of freshly frozen collard greens.

The launch event served as an opportunity to celebrate what the Holmes County Food Hub has accomplished in just under one year. We look forward to the hub’s future growth and development. For more information contact Glyen Holmes at (850) 352-2400 or

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