Supporting Sustainable Food Hubs
Brexit and Covid disrupted the food system in different ways, but both highlighted the vulnerability that comes from over-reliance on consolidated supply chains. A resilient food system requires a more diverse and flexible infrastructure. Food hubs help to fill this gap. Part of the overlooked ‘missing middle’ of the food system, they are pilots and test-beds for methods of food distribution that match the scale and values of sustainable production and consumption.
The UK has a multitude of sustainable food producers, from farmers and millers to butchers and brewers, committed to producing food in ways that respect people and animals, and protect the environment and the climate. They are often small in scale, and their products tend to be seasonal, regional and non-standard. Routes to market can be difficult to establish for individual businesses operating in this way. Food hubs, by aggregating supply, provide a valuable outlet for these sustainable producers, and act as a convenient point of purchase for consumers. They offer crucial infrastructure to several suppliers at once, which can be costly, impractical and inefficient to establish and run on an individual basis. Food hubs play an important role as a gatekeeper of values and standards in these supply chains, as they select which producers to work with, placing a burden of trust and responsibility on them.
The FRC’s Sustainable Food Hubs project is working closely with a group of food hubs on the specific project of developing a framework to help them assess and communicate their sustainability (environmental, social and economic). This will help them – and us – to make the case that they deserve policy support and investment, and will give them the means to communicate and evidence their values to their local communities.
Image: Community Foodworks staffers at a Pop-Up Food Hub in Washington D.C. (Public domain)