The NGFN Food Hub Collaboration Study Hubs: a cross-section of innovators from around the country
The NGFN Food Hub Collaboration has selected nine Study Hubs from across the country to broadly inform the strategies and activities of food hubs nationwide. We will work closely with these food hubs and report extensively on their progress so that we may all learn from their models, challenges, and successes. As a group, the Study Hubs represent a balance of model and legal structure, age of enterprise, scale, markets served, and region of the country. Learn more about these innovators below.
Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA)
Legal Structure: Nonprofit
Model: Farm to business/institution wholesale
Markets: Institutions, schools, supermarkets, farmers markets, universities, corporate cafeterias, and CSAs
Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA) is a nonprofit located in Salinas, California, that owns and operates ALBA Organics, a food distributor that sells fresh organic produce in the San Francisco Bay and Central Coast regions of California. ALBA Organics is a wholesale-model food hub working with 80 local/regional producers. Their primary markets include institutions, schools, supermarkets, farmers markets, universities, corporate cafeterias, and CSAs.
ALBA provides important elements for start-up farm businesses to get established: education, hands-on training and assistance, as well as access to markets and other commercial relationships. It has one of the best-established and most successful immigrant farmer incubation programs in the country. In addition, ALBA is assisting 10 regional farmers markets to adopt a Market Match program where eligible consumers get a $5 token for every $10 purchase of fresh produce at farmers markets. ALBA promotes the program to the public, trains and coordinates with market managers and farmer/vendors, and surveys consumers who use the program. Many of these markets are either located in food deserts or cater to low-income clientele. ALBA also implements an environmental education class, hosting 1,000 school children at their farm to teach them about sustainable farming and healthy eating.
Cherry Capital FoodsTraverse City, MI
Legal Structure: For-profit (LLC)
Model: Farm to business/institution model – produce distributor
Markets: Institutions, schools, restaurants, supermarkets, hospitals, and colleges
Cherry Capital Foods is a for-profit business located in Traverse City, MI, that distributes a wide variety of fresh produce and other local products from 150 Michigan producers to markets in Michigan. Cherry Capital Foods has a farm to business/institution model. Their primary markets are institutions, schools, restaurants, supermarkets, hospitals, and colleges.
Cherry Capital is extensively involved with its producers, offering pack-size training and guidance on food safety protocols and product storage. They actively help producers to find new markets and offer them marketing and promotional services. Cherry Capital underwrites the Taste The Local Difference Program of the Michigan Land Use Institute and is actively involved with the Michigan Food Policy Council.
Cherry Capital Foods Promotional Video:
Common Market Philadelphia
Legal Structure: Nonprofit
Model: Farm to business/institution
Markets: Institutions, schools, hospitals, grocery stores, workplace CSA and "Farm to Faith"
Common Market Philadelphia is a local food distributor of farm foods whose mission is to strengthen regional farms while making the local bounty accessible to communities and the institutions that serve them. Common Market provides the infrastructure to connect public and private schools, hospitals, universities, grocery stores and workplaces to good food grown by approximately 100 sustainable farmers in the region. With a strong focus on reaching vulnerable populations, Common Market actively distributes to grocery stores in food desserts, hospitals and schools that serve low-income populations.
Common Market provides institutions and retailers in the Delaware Valley with the freshest farm food throughout the year. They offer a wide variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables, grocery items, dairy, eggs, and meat to our customers. Their food is served in hospitals, schools, colleges and universities, workplaces, and is available for purchase at various retailers in the Philadelphia area.
Common Market strives to maintain their grower’s identity throughout the process of distribution so that their customers know exactly what they are getting and from where. They provide their farmers’ name and location on each case of food as well as on each invoice so their customers can be confident that they are getting the freshest local produce available.
Common Market Promotional Video:
Farm Fresh Rhode Island
Legal Structure: Nonprofit
Model: Hybrid: Farm to consumer (Veggie Box) and Farm to business/institution (Market Mobile)
Markets: Institutions, schools, restaurants, supermarkets, hospitals, box program, buying clubs, workplaces, and farm stands
Farm Fresh Rhode Island is a nonprofit organization located in Pawtucket, RI, that distributes a wide variety of fresh produce and other local products from 60 New England producers to markets and consumers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Farm Fresh Rhode Island is a hybrid model food hub, with both farm to consumer (Veggie Box) and farm to business/institution (Market Mobile) components. Their primary markets are institutions, schools, restaurants, supermarkets, hospitals, box program, buying clubs, workplaces, and farm stands.
Farm Fresh Rhode Island offers a wide variety of health-focused and food access programs. They accept SNAP/WIC; offer matching programs; offer nutrition or cooking education; actively distribute to food deserts; work with food pantries; educate on healthy eating; work with health-focused institutions such as hospitals; and pilot a food processing kitchen working with youth in the juvenile justice system as job training.
Legal Structure: For-profit (LLC)
Model: Hybrid model - farm to consumer (box delivery); farm to business/institution
Markets: Universities, restaurants, specialty grocers, CSA-like Meat Box and mobile food truck
Firsthand Foods is a for-profit LLC located in Durham, North Carolina supporting the growth of pasture-based livestock producers and allied businesses by supplying restaurants, retailers and consumers with a steady supply of high quality, local, pasture-raised beef and pork throughout the Triangle region of North Carolina. Firsthand Foods is a Hybrid model selling meat products from 25 producers wholesale to universities, restaurants and specialty growers as well as direct to consumer through a CSA-like Meat Box program and a mobile food truck.
Firsthand Foods strives to conduct business along the supply chain with respect and transparency and help build a local, sustainable supply chain for meat in the southeast that includes environmental stewardship, social equity and producer profitability. Firsthand Foods works extensively to engage their producers offering educational opportunities to increase their capacity and grant writing and fundraising support for supply chain partners while offering strong branding and messaging to increase the demand for local, pasture-raised beef and pork.
Firsthand Food Promotional Video:
Legal Structure: For-profit LLC
Model: Hybrid model - farm to consumer (subscription box program); farm to business/institution
Markets: Subscription box program; restaurants and growing to schools
Producers: More than 75
NOTE: As of Dec 6, 2013, Grasshoppers Distribution, a cutting-edge food hub, has made the difficult decision to shutter its doors. Just like any young business, sometimes food hubs are unable to reach profitability within the director's comfortable time horizon. The NGFN Food Hub Collaboration is committed to learning from success as well as failure. Although the following link may at some point be retired, a letter describing the situation may be found here.
Grasshoppers Distribution is a mission driven for-profit LLC located in Louisville, Kentucky distributing local product in Louisville and New Albany, Indiana. Grasshoppers Distribution is a Hybrid model selling primarily direct to consumer through a subscription box program while also serving wholesale markets such as restaurants and the local school district through the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program. Grasshoppers Distribution plans to expand their reach to schools and be the go-to source for local produce for the Jefferson County Public School System.
Grasshoppers Distribution’s mission is threefold: to provide a reliable market for family farmers; to increase the amount of local food grown in a sustainable manner; and to increase affordable access to healthy, locally-grown food. To achieve this, Grasshoppers Distribution provides technical assistance to farmers in production planning, post-harvest handling and GAP training as well as accepts SNAP benefits, is working to offer a matching program for SNAP recipients, donates produce to the Center for Women and Families, and is applying to be a Healthy in a Hurry Corner Store in their neighborhood. Grasshoppers Distribution is also in the process of building a kitchen facility to produce value-added products to increase variety in their produce boxes to consumers, increase sales to grocery stores, schools and hospitals, as well as increase their capacity to provide food access to low income consumers. Grasshoppers Distribution is an example of a unique public-private partnership with local government support. Spurred by a $50,000 “vote of confidence” investment made by the non-profit, Wholesome Wave, up to $350,000 in additional commitments have been made by the Kentucky Agriculture Development Board, Kentucky Agricultural Finance Corporation and a private investor.
Idaho’s Bounty Co-op
Hailey and Garden City, Idaho
Legal Structure: Cooperative
Model: Hybrid model - farm to consumer (online ordering); farm to business/institution
Markets: Restaurants, supermarkets, schools, individual customers, food banks
Idaho’s Bounty Co-Op is a cooperative located in Hailey and Garden City, Idaho which provides locally sourced food in Southern Idaho. Working with 80 producers, Idaho’s Bounty Co-op is a hybrid model which serves individual consumers as well as wholesale customers. Idaho’s Bounty Co-op sells to individual consumers through an online market where customers can order and pick up their selection of local foods at pick up locations and they also sell products wholesale to restaurants, supermarkets, schools and food banks.
In addition, Idaho’s Bounty Co-op strives to strengthen regional marketplaces and distribution services to secure local farmers' livelihoods in a geographically spread out region, provide education to new farmers, educate consumers, integrate healthy lands and healthy communities via local foods through school system and hospital involvement, and encourage sustainable practices in trucking, growing, and community building. Idaho’s Bounty provides production planning and training to their producers while working with the community by working towards accepting SNAP benefits, providing food to the local food bank, teaching cooking classes through the local community college, assisting the local hospital with nutrition programs and working with parents to teach nutrition classes in schools.
Jack & Jake’s, Inc.
New Orleans, LA
Legal Structure: Privately held business
Model: Hybrid - farm to consumer; farm to business/institution (on line ordering)
Markets: Schools, restaurants, caterers, grocers, hospitals, and universities
Jack & Jake’s is a privately held business located in New Orleans, LA, that distributes fresh produce from more than 200 producers in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana to cities from Biloxi, MS, to Baton Rouge, centering on the New Orleans metro area. Jack & Jake’s is a hybrid model food hub, with both farm to consumer and farm to business/institution (on line ordering) components. Their primary markets are schools, restaurants, caterers, grocers, hospitals, and universities.
Jack & Jake’s new retail facility will be located in one of the largest urban food deserts in New Orleans and will offer discounting of fresh foods to the neighborhood. They will accept SNAP/WIC, offer nutrition classes and job training in their training kitchen, and partner with a number of non-profit groups such as Second Harvest Food Bank, Tulane School of Public Health’s Prevention Research Center, and the New Orleans Food and Farm Network.
Local Food Hub
Legal Structure: Nonprofit
Model: Farm to business/institution model - produce distribution and educational farm
Markets: Institutions, schools, restaurants, supermarkets, retail operations, caterers, buying clubs, nonprofits, food banks.
Local Food Hub is a nonprofit organization located in Charlottesville, VA, that distributes fresh produce and other local products from more than 75 Virginia producers to markets in Central Virginia. Local Food Hub has a farm to business/institution model. Their primary markets are institutions, schools, restaurants, supermarkets, retail operations, caterers, buying clubs, nonprofits, and food banks.
Local Food Hub provides a wide variety of services for producers including production planning, networking, marketing assistance, and educational opportunities such as farm worker training, workshops, and an incubator plot program. Community members also benefit from educational workshops, increased food access, and outreach activities. Additionally, Local Food Hub works to increase local food access. They partner with local non-profits and businesses to host 'pop-up markets' that accept EBT and have lower prices for consumers in low-income neighborhoods. They also donate to food banks and soup kitchens, and have an extensive Farm to School program; students can even visit their educational farm.
Local Food Hub Promotional Video: