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Archive for Monday, April 29, 2013

County seeking grant to study feasibility of ‘food hub’

April 29, 2013

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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.

Comments

oldbaldguy 11 months, 3 weeks ago

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

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jlmiletich1 11 months, 3 weeks ago

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

http://jlmiletich1.wordpress.com/

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oldbaldguy 11 months, 3 weeks 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?

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Centerville 11 months, 3 weeks 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.

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insidR 11 months, 3 weeks 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?

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Milton Bland 11 months, 3 weeks ago

This isn soooo sad! The USDA needs to be eliminated. And that is coming from a person who has very close ties to farming. That is my money being wasted, along with the majority of USDA programs. But Obama would prefer to close control towers and short-change education.

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Patricia Davis 11 months, 3 weeks ago

I saw this on a blog: http://healdsburgshed.com 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?

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oldbaldguy 11 months, 3 weeks 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?

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Steven Gaudreau 11 months, 3 weeks ago

"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"

I don't understand how the Feds are broke!

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cowboy 11 months, 3 weeks 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

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Robert Rauktis 11 months, 3 weeks 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?

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