In 2014, a team of local and regional food leaders and researchers conducted a study of food hubs in Iowa. This first coordinated study of food hub development in Iowa shows that food hubs play a significant role in Iowa’s local and regional food economy by supporting 58 jobs and purchasing $4.5 million in food from more than 450 Iowa farmers. Surveys of food hub managers and regional food systems leaders throughout the state identified 31 food hubs or centers of food hub related activity in Iowa.
What is a food hub?
According to the National Food Hub Collaboration, a partnership sponsored by the Wallace Center’s National Good Food Network:
“A regional 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.”
Food hubs can be a critical link in bringing local foods from the farm to high-volume, mainstream outlets such as grocery stores, restaurants and institutions. Food hubs also may offer education and training to farmers to increase their capacity to meet high-volume demand.
What did this study involve?
A steering committee guided the process. Members included farmers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), university researchers and grassroots local food systems leaders.
The study included two surveys:
- Iowa food hub managers (n=13) and
- Regional food coordinators (n=11)
- for a combined response rate of 83 percent and a total of 24 completed surveys.
Information was analyzed by the Leopold Center in a February 2015 report showing that food hubs play a significant role in Iowa’s local and regional food economy by supporting 40 jobs and purchasing $4.5 million in food from more than 450 Iowa farmers.
The project was supported, in part, through the Iowa State SARE Professional Development Program.
This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.