Did you know we have a mobile site?

Skip Ribbon Commands Skip to main content
My Access Login
Advanced Search
Food Hubs Seen as Profitable Businesses
Bookmark and Share

A nationwide survey shows that, across the country, food hubs are growing to meet the need for local food distribution infrastructure. The 2013 National Food Hub Survey was conducted by the Michigan State University (MSU) Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS) and the Wallace Center at Winrock International.


Source: Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Contact: Rich Pirog, rspirog@msu.edu or Jeff Farbman, jfarbman@winrock.org

Food Hubs Seen as Profitable Businesses, National Survey Shows


A nationwide survey shows that, across the country, food hubs are growing to meet the need for local food distribution infrastructure.  The 2013 National Food Hub Survey was conducted by the Michigan State University (MSU) Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS) and the Wallace Center at Winrock International.

Food hubs are businesses or organizations that manage the aggregation, distribution and marketing of source-identified food products.  The recent survey results from more than 100 food hubs demonstrate that hubs throughout the United States continue to develop as financially viable businesses providing locally produced food to restaurants, schools, grocery stores and other wholesale customers.  Food hubs may also provide much needed size-appropriate infrastructure and marketing opportunities for local food produced by small and midsized farms and ranches.

“Surveys such as this one provide much needed data for those looking to fund, evaluate and further investigate the role of food hubs in regional food systems. It also provides a way for us to track the change in food hub development over the next decade – we intend to conduct this survey every two years,” said Michael W. Hamm, C.S. Mott Professor of Sustainable Agriculture and director of the CRFS.

The 2013 National Food Hub Survey represents one of the most comprehensive data sets on food hub operations to date. The survey gathered information on topics such as the financial state of food hubs, the numbers and types of farmers and ranchers that they work with, and the types of customers they serve. Key findings from the survey indicate that food hubs are:

  • Financially viable. Sixty-six percent of food hubs operate independently from outside funding sources.
  • Contributing significantly to the growth of their local economies. The average food hub’s sales in 2012 exceeded $3.7 million.
  • Creating jobs. The average food hub houses 19 paid positions.
    Supporting regional producers. The average food hub worked with 80 producers (i.e., farms and ranches), the majority of which are small or midsized.
  • Contributing to food access. Nearly half of all food hubs have operational commitments to equity, increasing food access and/or community development.

“Food hubs are pivotal for meeting the growing demand for regionally produced, healthy food because they offer farmers a profitable channel for reaching wholesale markets, provide valuable aggregation and distribution services otherwise often missing, and efficiently manage relationships and transactions with buyers,” said John Fisk, director of the Wallace Center at Winrock International.  “We are excited to see the continued growth and development of food hubs across the country.”

The impact of food hubs has only recently been studied, and information has been lacking on many of the characteristics across a wide range of active food hubs.

A full report of the survey findings can be found on the CRFS website, www.foodsystems.msu.edu/activities/food-hub-survey, and on the Wallace Center’s site, www.ngfn.org/2013foodhubsurvey

The Wallace Center’s National Good Food Network will host a webinar highlighting key findings from the report at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) Thursday (Sept. 19). Registration for the webinar is free and open until broadcast time at http://bit.ly/hubsurveywebinar

The CRFS unites the applied research, education and outreach expertise of faculty and staff members at MSU to advance understanding of and engagement with regional food systems. CRFS organizers envision a thriving economy, equity and sustainability for Michigan, the country and the planet through food systems rooted in local regions and centered on food that is healthy, green, fair and affordable. More about the center can be found at www.foodsystems.msu.edu

The Wallace Center at Winrock International serves the growing community of civic, business and philanthropic organizations involved in building a new, good food system in the United States. The Wallace Center is advancing regional, collaborative efforts to move good food — healthy, green, fair, affordable food — beyond the direct-marketing realm into larger scale wholesale channels. Through research, pilot programs, networking and outreach, the center advances market-based strategies to scale up the supply of healthy food to communities across the country. More about the Wallace Center and its work can be found at www.WallaceCenter.org and www.NGFN.org