From Food Hubs to CSAs

How Food Hubs Shifted Their Model to Meet the Needs of Growers and Consumers during COVID-19

ISSUE

Wholesale businesses are a key part of local food enterprises’ success. According to the forthcoming 2019 Food Hub Survey, 39% of the hubs surveyed rely primarily on wholesale markets and only 10% of all sales that hubs reported were from direct to consumer market channels. When these wholesale channels dried up overnight at the start of the pandemic, many hubs had inventory sitting in warehouses that needed to be redirected, and farmers weren’t sure if they should harvest the crops that had planted to supply their partner hubs. At the same time, there was a huge surge in food insecurity.

INNOVATION

Many hubs took elements of a Community Supported Agriculture model- which guarantees a market for farmers, provides customers a food box on a regular schedule, and strives to match the needs of farmers and growers. Local food hubs, even those that didn't run CSAs, were able to collarborate with partners and use these models to manage this massive market shift. Hubs also had the advantage of highly developed logistics and last-mile delivery.

OUTCOME

Pre-established partnerships with values aligned organizations and community members were key to helping hubs understand and navigate the new supply and demand landscapes when their traditional market models dried up. Hubs utilized CSA-type functions without needing to adopt a traditional CSA model. This, alongside with their last-mile and logistics capabilities, can be an efficient and valuable way to meet the needs of growers and eaters.

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