Archive for Monday, April 29, 2013

County seeking grant to study feasibility of ‘food hub’

April 29, 2013


Douglas County officials took another step this week toward establishing a "food hub" that would make it easier for area restaurants, grocery stores and other institutions to offer locally grown fruits, vegetables and meats to their customers.

The county's Food Policy Council said it is applying for a $58,250 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study the feasibility of establishing the hub to bring local food suppliers and customers closer together and to reduce costs of locally sourced food.

"This idea of the lack of a food infrastructure has been building through several things," said Eileen Horn, sustainability coordinator for the county and the city of Lawrence.

Over the past couple of years, she said, the Food Policy Council has engaged in a number of meetings and workshops to study different ways of improving the local food system, "and the concept of a food hub always came up and was the number-one recommendation to take forward."

Most recently, she said, she and other local officials met with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development office, which encouraged them to apply for a Rural Business Enterprise Grant.

"Knowing that there was funding available to help support a feasibility study all of a sudden made it much more imminent," Horn said.

Improving access to healthy foods is one of the goals outlined in the Douglas County Community Health Plan, which the county health department unveiled earlier this week.

Horn said a food hub could help overcome one of the biggest obstacles to accessing fresh, local foods: the cost.

"Currently our local producers are trying to grow their farm business and market their product at the same time," she said. "Without a middleman to take some of those costs away, they end up selling at a retail cost, which is difficult for low-income consumers."

The $58,250 grant being sought from the USDA would be matched with $10,000 from the Kansas Health Foundation to hire a consultant who would analyze the local market and help determine what type of business model would work best in Douglas County.

Horn said the consultant would survey potential customers – restaurants, grocery stores, area schools and hospitals - to find out how much supply they would need, as well as local producers to find out how quickly, and to what extent, they could scale up their production to meet that demand.

One of the potential pitfalls for farmers and ranchers, she said, is a drop in income when they switch from retail to wholesale marketing. She said that's the why the council also is asking to study different business models.

"Should it be a non-profit, or should it be cooperatively owned by the producers so that they can control their pricing?" she said. "Or would an entrepreneur want to pick up and do it, and it would be a for-profit business?"

Horn said she expects to hear within the next several weeks whether the grant will be awarded.


Robert Rauktis 4 years, 11 months ago

"a $58,250 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study the feasibility of establishing the hub to bring local food suppliers and customers closer together and to reduce costs of locally sourced food."

Isn't that hub called "The Farmer's Market"? Do these people ever get out of their offices or do they perpetuate the bureaucracy with your tax dollars?

cowboy 4 years, 11 months ago

I think its a worthy idea

develop the local market = jobs create some certainty on crop sales create new crops to meet commercial demand identify the size of the market develop a credible cost effective way to provide natural raised meats into the market

problem is seasonality of it all , what are the restaurants / markets to do in winter months

Hooligan_016 4 years, 11 months ago

That grant pales in comparison to the amount given out for farm subsidies.

tomatogrower 4 years, 11 months ago

Farmers get farm subsidies. Some of them make quite a killing for them. Vision card holders aren't always farmers, actually are seldom farmers.

jlmiletich1 4 years, 11 months ago

When did Monsanto and Cargill start using Vision cards?! :-)

oldbaldguy 4 years, 11 months ago

what happen to the market dictating supply and demand? grant means paying someone to do a study. this is dumb. if county really wants to study this, then they(we) need to pay for it. why is there a county food policy council? does every kansas county have one? i thought the food infrastructure is checkers, high vee and so on?

Patricia Davis 4 years, 11 months ago

I saw this on a blog: and I thought I was fabulous. While in California wine country, the concept resonates for our community. It's based on the old-fashioned Grange. All things old are new again?

insidR 4 years, 11 months ago

Most the commenters above obviously have little understanding of what this is all about. Try clicking on the “food hub” link within the article for a good explanation. The local farmers markets are great places but they are not food hubs. There is a need to better supply restaurants, grocery stores, schools and other institutions with large quantities of good, consistent, local food, rather than have it all shipped in from out of state. Individual local growers are not well positioned to provide the large-scale cold storage, processing, warehousing, and delivery systems needed. The idea is to help coordinate the infrastructure needed to ramp this up to the next level. This takes some planning and coordination, just what the grant is for. More local food means better food and local jobs. It’s a clear win for the community. What are you guys complaining about? Since the money is already budgeted by the USDA, would you feel better if it went to another community?

Centerville 4 years, 11 months ago

It will pay for one bureaucrat. Then he or she will carp and whine for more money and, pretty soon, it will be said by places like the LJW that farmers' markets can't exist unless the USDA puts more money into the hub. Trust me, you farmers' market lovers, tell the USDA to go cause problems somewhere else.

oldbaldguy 4 years, 11 months ago

who pays for this? we do. if this is such a good idea why aren't the producers getting together and using their money?

jlmiletich1 4 years, 11 months ago

Local food hub blog here (diagrams / videos / radio interviews):

oldbaldguy 4 years, 11 months ago

thanks for the blog. however once the grant money is gone how will this be financed?

tomatogrower 4 years, 11 months ago

Perhaps after the hub is viable and the farmers are making more money, then they can afford to chip in and help continue it, kind of like a co op, or what a co op was suppose to be.

jlmiletich1 4 years, 11 months ago

That is a good question and part of the answer lies in determining what type of food hub might be created. I cannot answer this, but it's a question I will be examining in my next video blog - hopefully by this weekend.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.