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CHAPTER 11 Food Hubs Expanding Local Food to Urban Consumers becc a b. r. jablonski and todd m. schmit introduction Despite a renaissance of urban agriculture in the United States as described by other authors throughout this book, the overall volume and value of food currently produced in these spaces is unclear. As Johnson, Aussenberg, and Cowan (2013) remark, “there is no compiled [U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)] . . . data specific to farms located in urbanized areas” (12). Rather, USDA data are based on “metropolitan” (metro) areas, which include a larger area than just “urban.” Though USDA data from 2008 show that more than one-half of all farms located in metro counties have local food sales, compared with only one-third of all US farms, the extent to which these farms are located in an urbanized environment is unknown (Low and Vogel 2011; Johnson, Aussenberg, and Cowan 2013). Further, despite a growing number of case studies documenting the proliferation of or potential for urban community gardens and farms (e.g., Ackerman 2011; Hodgson, Campbell, and Bailkey 2011; PolicyLink 2013), collectively these reports convey that 180 distribution only a small percentage of metro farm production output occurs within urban centers. As one might expect, available data demonstrate that local food market outlets and sales are concentrated in urban areas (e.g., Hinrichs and Charles 2012; Jablonski 2014; Low and Vogel 2011; USDA ERS 2012). Additionally, Low and Vogel (2011) show that the majority of local food is sold through intermediated markets (defined by King et al. 2010 as a supply chain for a local product that reaches consumers through one or more intermediaries). This suggests that continued growth in local food sales will require intermediaries to move product from farm to market. The widespread agreement that there remains unmet demand for locally grown food (e.g., Hardesty 2008; Baker, Hamshaw, and Kolodinsky 2009; Stephenson and Lev 2004; Schneider and Francis 2005) implies that there is a failure at some point (or multiple points) along the supply chain. Based on a comprehensive literature review, Martinez et al. (2010) conclude that the unmet demand is largely a result of the “lack of distribution systems for moving local foods into mainstream markets” (iv). Accessing appropriately scaled markets is difficult for small and midsized farms as supply chains become more vertically integrated and consolidated . Large-scale supermarket retail and wholesale operations demand large volumes, low prices, and consistent quantities and qualities that must meet increasingly strict safety standards. The procurement systems in such markets are often vertically and horizontally integrated and global in scale, and they aim to maximize efficiency (e.g., King et al. 2010; Richards and Pofahl 2010; Sexton 2010; Tropp, Ragland, and Barham 2008). In order to facilitate market access for small and midscale farms and improve consumer access to locally grown foods, public agencies and private foundationsareincreasinglyfinancingandpromoting“foodhub”development (e.g., NGFN 2013; USDA 2011; Cuomo 2013). Following the USDA’s working definition, a food hub is a “business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demand” (Barham et al. 2012, 4). Despite the increase in public and private support for food hubs, there has been little work to evaluate their impact. Efforts to assess the impacts of local food system activities generally, and food hubs specifically, are often Expanding Local Food to Urban Consumers 181 complicated by a lack of available data. The primary objective of this chapter is to better understand the extent to which food hubs increase consumer access to locally grown and processed products, enhance farm entry into markets, and support farm viability. Given the significant data needs to conduct this type of analysis, we used a case study approach, examining a food hub in New York State (NYS). Accordingly, we conducted surveys with over 300 of the food hub’s customers, and in-depth interviews with 30 farms and 15 processors supplying food products to the food hub. The rest of this chapter begins with a review of the literature related to assessment of food hub impacts on overall supply of local food and farm viability. Next, we present information about our methodology and case study food hub. We conclude with our results, discussion, and recommendations for future research. literature review There is a burgeoning literature on food hubs, focused mostly on descriptive statistics (e.g., Barham et al. 2012; Bloom...


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