Worcester FOOD HUB meeting today at Hanover Theater! FREE! Please attend! Fight for food justice! Fight for economic development in Woo! ALSO: ICT Food Hub story by Congressman Jim McGovern

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Food hubs grow our local economy, especially immigrant and first-generation endeavors, and they bring produce at affordable prices to inner-city kitchens! 

A FOOD HUB FOR WORCESTER!

Once again, from REC …

Building A Sustainable Worcester: Taking Regional Food Hub from Vision to Reality

TONIGHT!

FREE!

HANOVER THEATER

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

We invite you to attend a free presentation TODAY,  Thursday, February 19, co-hosted by the Regional Environmental Council, the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Hanover Theater for the Performing Arts

Come learn more about the role food hubs can play in promoting Food Justice while fostering economic development.

FREE tickets can be reserved by calling the theater box office at 877-571-7469 or register online.

We look forward to seeing you there!

The Regional Environmental Council of Central Massachusetts [aka REC] has received a planning grant from the Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts to explore the feasibility of establishing a Worcester Regional Food Hub in partnership with the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Food hubs are broadly defined as facilities that manage the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution or marketing of locally and regionally produced food.

We are thrilled to explore opportunities with diverse community stakeholders to dramatically increase access to healthy, affordable, local food in Worcester, while helping local farmers access new markets.

FOOD HUB Advisory Committee members include:

Central MA Regional Planning Commission

Central MA Workforce Investment Board

City of Worcester Division of Public Health

Clark University, Community Development & Planning Program

Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Smart Cities & Wellness Project

Lettuce Be Local

Northeast Organic Farming Association

Office of Congressman James P. McGovern

UMass Memorial Medical Center

UMass-Amherst Stockbridge School of Agricultural Extension

Worcester County Food Bank

Worcester Food & Active Living Policy Council

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Sustainable Food Systems Project Center

Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce

REC – Regional Environmental Council

P.O Box 255

Worcester, MA 01613

To learn more visit: http://www.recworcester.org/

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InCity Times is passionate about FOOD HUBS! Here’s Congressman Jim McGovern’s InCity Times kick-ass Food Hub cover story! He wrote it for us in 2013.     – R. Tirella

WORCESTER COULD BE HOME TO STATE’S NEXT FOOD HUB

By Congressman Jim McGovern

What if I told you that within a quick drive of Worcester lies an incredible agriculture community you have never seen, touched, or tasted?

In 2010, there were nearly 8,000 farms in Massachusetts, according to the United States Census—the highest number in the state dating back to at least 1978. And that doesn’t count hundreds of additional community and personal operations that fall below the size threshold.

That’s thousands of farmers, right in our backyard. It’s a testament to the long endurance of some family farms, as well as a sign of the returning, growing impact of farms on our local economy and society.

It’s a move that parallels the so-called “locavore movement” towards locally-grown food over the past decades; a demand that has grown as we have all learned about the economic and health benefits to buying and eating local.

Yet, despite the breadth and increasing number of farms in Massachusetts, in our urban centers such as Worcester, there remains a huge physical and emotional disconnect between the producers (the farmers) and the consumers (us).

Despite the presence of some truly admirable local farmers markets, there is a gap in our food infrastructure that prevents food produced in the state from getting to the consumers who want and would benefit from it the most.

As I’ve travelled around the 2nd Congressional District, visiting farms across Central and Western Massachusetts, the most oft-cited challenge relayed to me by small to mid-sized farmers and producers is a lack of processing, packing, and storage space to get their products ready to sell and ship.

It leaves us with a major question: What if we could drastically improve the economic output of local farmers, allowing them to grow their businesses, while simultaneously making good, fresh, healthy, locally grown products more available to consumers who want them in cities like Worcester? It’s clear that if we could bridge that gap, there would be a huge impact on our local, regional, and state economies, as well as a huge societal benefit.

I believe that Worcester can be the epicenter of that impact by being the home of an innovative concept known as a “food hub.”

The word “Food Hub” can encompass a variety of operations, both in terms of size and scale, but the National Food Hub Collaboration defines regional food hubs as “a business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demand.”

In essence, food hubs allow small and midsized farms reach markets and consumers they’ve never had access to. They provide a central collection point for products from a variety of farms; they provide space and equipment for processing, packing, and storage. And they provide an economy of scale, allowing smaller local farms to pool their products and sell to larger consumers, such as grocery chains.

In many ways, food hubs are a return to the traditional economic values that made Massachusetts and New England so strong. Food hubs allow for a stronger local food economy based on closer relationships between farmers and consumers. They allow institutional buyers, such as hospitals, a greater opportunity to provide the healthy, local food they want to, but can’t always access.

Though food hubs are relatively new, there is a demonstrable positive economic, social, and environmental impact where they are located. Based on the 2011 National Food Hub Collaboration Survey, food hubs gross nearly $1 million in annual sales on average, with many reporting double and triple-digit annual sales growth.

That same survey reported that, although the majority of food hubs have been in operation for five years or less, there is a clear and immediate impact on job opportunities. For example, the Local Food Hub in Virginia, which opened in 2009, had already created 15 paid jobs at its distribution and farm operations. And that says nothing for the spin-off job growth at the farms that utilize the hub. Green B.E.A.N Delivery, a food delivery business that serves Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky, estimates that since 2007, the company has invested more than $2 million in local food economies and helped create more than 100 jobs in the Midwest.

I look at those stunning numbers, combined with the growing demand for local food, and it’s clear that a regional food hub belongs here in our city. This is an idea I am passionate about, and one that I plan on continuing to talk about with local, state, and national partners in the coming year.

Food hubs must be a critical piece of how we think about our broader economic development strategy in Massachusetts, and I believe that Worcester is the right location. We have strong local leadership on local food issues, through groups such as REC, and we have a geographic location that makes us an enviable location for any statewide distribution network.

The question for me isn’t whether we’ll see a food hub built somewhere in Central Massachusetts—it’s when and where. We’re a state with agriculture resources beyond what many of us have traditionally realized, and a consumer base chomping at the bit to take advantage of those resources. If we can only build the bridges, we’ll be healthier food wise, and economy wise