As part of an OMAFRA-funded research project that examined the role of food hubs in building food system resilience in community value chains, researchers at Wilfrid Laurier’s Centre for Sustainable Food Systems conducted two province-wide surveys of local sustainable food hubs in Ontario. We surveyed food producers, processors, and distributors to find out how they defined local food, if/how they thought food hubs added value to food chains for producers and communities, where food hub funding is coming from, what kinds of expansion opportunities they could identify across the value chain, and how food hubs might increase local sales.
We heard back from 125 operations connected to food hubs and have created a series of infographics summarizing their responses. We are happy to announce that the Food Hub Infographics will be permanently available on the FLEdGE website in downloadable pdf format.
What is a food hub? Food hubs are actual or virtual spaces that collect and distribute food to processors, retailers, restaurants, and/or consumers. Food hubs can also provide space for other activities including food preparation, handling, processing, education, and/or training.
The Food Hub Survey infographics are divided into seven categories:
- Defining and Valuing Local Food
- Food Hubs Add Value for Producers and Communities
- Expansion Opportunities for Food Hubs
- Sales and Funding Sources for Local and Sustainable Food Hubs
- Expansion Opportunities for Producers
- Expansion Opportunities for Processors and Distributors
- How to Increase Local Sales
The responses for the 2016 survey showed that 90% of respondents think that “local” means within 100 kms, the county, or region. Survey results also indicated that food hubs help farmers with product diversification, access to markets, and hiring. Food hubs also provide community support through paid opportunities for youth, donations to food banks, and education about food systems.
While food hubs face significant barriers to their operations, access to capital, reliable seasonal or part-time labour, and meeting regulations top the list. Significantly, while median gross annual sales fell into the $100-$250,000 range, about 25% of respondents reported that they earn less than $25,000 per year. And while the vast majority of producers, processors, and distributors wanted to grow their business, about half reported that a lack of capital prevents expansion opportunities. Respondents recognized the value of local markets for their businesses; even though more than 60% of sales reported are already going into local markets, almost all respondents (95%) wanted to increase local sales.
The Food Hub Infographics are an excellent tool for anyone interested in learning more about food hubs in Ontario, and we invite you to share them with your networks. To continue the discussion about how food hubs add value to local food systems, we will host a webinar to discuss the Food Hub Survey results and infographics with panelists Alison Blay-Palmer (Director of the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems), Katie Nolan (Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Advisor at Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs), and Phil Mount (Associate Director of Just Food). More details to follow.
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