The U. S. Department of Agriculture unveiled the first Regional Food Hub Resource Guide, bolstering its commitment to expand market opportunities for small and mid-sized producers. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan introduced the new resource guide today at the National Good Food Network Food Hub Collaboration conference.
"The Regional Food Hub Resource Guide is an important tool to help promote local and regional efforts to support small and medium sized producers," said Merrigan. "Food hubs play a critical role in developing stronger supply chains and addressing the infrastructure challenges while supporting food access, regional economic development and job creation."
Food hubs are businesses or organizations that connect producers with buyers by offering a suite of production, distribution, and marketing services. It's an innovative business model that allows farmers of all sizes to meet the growing consumer demand for fresh, local food by gaining entry into commercial and larger volume markets such as grocery stores, hospitals and schools.
The guide is an extensive collection of information and resources, providing background on everything needed to develop or participate in a regional food hub. The guide highlights the economic contributions food hubs make to local communities and the role they play in expanding regional food systems. It also outlines funding opportunities, support resources, best practices, strategies to address challenges and more. In 2011, USDA identified more than 170 food hubs operating around the country.
"The new guide is the most comprehensive handbook on food hubs ever available," said Merrigan. "Now farmers, buyers, researchers, consumers or anyone interested in creating a food hub in their community can tap into a single resource to find the information that they need."
USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) developed the Regional Food Hub Resource Guide in partnership with the Wallace Center at Winrock International, the National Good Food Network, the National Association of Produce Market Managers and the Project for Public Spaces, as part of the National Food Hub Collaboration. AMS works to support this collaboration through its research and outreach efforts.
The Regional Food Hub Resource Guide is part of USDA's commitment to support local and regional food systems. These investments, including the online food hub portal, the Farmers Market Promotion Program and the National Farmers Market Directory, are highlighted in USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF) Compass. The KYF Compass is a digital guide to USDA resources related to local and regional food systems. The Compass consists of an interactive U.S. map showing local and regional food projects and an accompanying narrative documenting the results of this work through case studies, photos and video content.
A large selection of USDA-supported programs and projects is also visible on the KYF Map, which can be displayed by theme, program, or recipient type. Both the KYF Compass and map will be regularly refreshed with new data and case studies.