Food hubs are proliferating. But what exactly are they? What are they for? And why do we need them? This Discussion Paper, based on collaborative work involving local food practitioners and academic researchers, aims to answer some of these questions.
Broadly speaking, food hubs are entities that sit between people who produce food and people who use it, gathering food from growers and distributing it either to commercial customers or directly to consumers. Often, they focus on helping small-scale suppliers find markets, and operate within an explicit ethical framework. They can fill gaps in local food infrastructure, help consumers find locally sourced produce, support new forms of food retail, incubate food enterprises, or create a space for community education and action.
The paper has been written for people who want to understand the role of multifunctional food hubs in the UK, or to determine whether a food hub (or what type of food hub) is appropriate for their locality and purposes. We hope the report will spark debate and provide pointers for people who are already busy in this expanding and energised sector. We also hope it will help policymakers, investors and funders to engage with, and potentially support, the role of food hubs in sustainable food systems.