Food Hubs

Food Hubs make it easier to buy and sell local food

Project summary

The ‘Food Hub in Casey’ project is a ‘live’ action research project catalysing the design and development of a regional ‘Food Hub’ on the peri-urban fringe of southeast Melbourne. Funded by a VicHealth Innovation grant, the need for the project emerged from the growing awareness that the food system across the region is failing farmers as well as the wider community. The region is ‘one of Australia’s most fertile and valuable agriculture areas’ (City of Casey 2008), yet this is being eroded by the declining viability of farm businesses and the loss of farmland and farmers, in the face of urban growth and declining terms of trade. Research into food access in the region has found a high proportion of fast food outlets relative to fresh, locally grown, options and increasingly high levels of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in sectors of the population (City of Casey 2010). Food insecurity in the City is higher than the state average, and the vulnerability index (VAMPIRE) indicates that this could grow significantly with projected economic and climatic conditions.

Food hubs are interventions evolving and proliferating throughout North America and Europe, creating new models of food access and distribution. The range of models for food hubs around the world, and the emerging body of knowledge around their design, implementation and environmental, economic and social impacts are being explored and applied in the Casey context.

Research for this project involves a range of methods to adequately investigate the multiple components of a complex regional agri-food system. In depth interviews with local farmers, food-related businesses, institutions, community organisations and households are being used to map the ‘supply and demand’ of food across the region. Simultaneously these interviews are investigating the opportunities and challenges for the development of a regional food hub as well as building a core group of local stakeholders. This research is being complimented by extensive spatial mapping of key food production, processing, distribution and access points across the region to provide a framework for a collaborative re-design of existing systems and to identify strategic intervention opportunities.

Background

Food Hubs can do lots of things, but they usually focus first on coordinated marketing and distribution of local fresh produce. They put the pieces together so that farmers can jointly market to restaurants and food service, wholesale customers and institutions, or to households and businesses.

We see Food Hubs as potentially viable interventions for transforming regional food systems. We are working towards development and operation of Food Hubs that can improve livelihoods for sustainable farmers and food access for all Australians.

VEIL is the current host of the Australian Food Hubs Network – a collaboration of individuals and organisations working towards fair, sustainable and resilient food systems for all Australians. You can find resources, case studies and updates on AFHN activities on the dedicated website at www.foodhubs.org.au

VEIL is also undertaking a ‘live’ action research project to catalyse the design and development of a regional ‘Food Hub’ on the peri-urban fringe of southeast Melbourne – now known as the South East Food Hub. This project has grown out of the “Imagining a Food Hub in Casey” scoping study conducted by Eaterprises and the Australian Food Hubs Network, with the support of VicHealth and the City of Casey, in 2011.

The project “How Can Food Hubs Catalyse Healthy and Resilient Local Food Systems in Victoria: Developing a Food Hub in the City of Casey”  is working closely with stakeholders to design and develop a Food Hub in the South East, with the dual aims of:

  • providing better market access and fair returns to farmers, hence strengthening long-term local supply; and
  • making fresh food accessible and affordable to local people.

Project detail

Food Hubs can provide the ‘missing local middleman’ in local food infrastructure.

Food hubs work directly with farmers to assist in the marketing and distribution of their products, making it easier for local businesses and communities to access fresh local food.

Food Hubs can do lots of things, but they usually focus first on coordinated marketing and distribution of local fresh produce. They put the pieces together so that farmers can jointly market to restaurants and food service, wholesale customers and institutions, or to households and businesses.

Food Hubs range in scale from volunteer-run buying groups using temporary spaces for receipt and packing of goods (like community or school halls, churches and garages) to permanent and well-established Hubs providing a variety of business, educational and/or food access services. Some have no staff and are purely run by volunteers or coop members, others are significant employers. See here and explore the Case Studies for diverse examples of Food Hubs.

VEIL is the host of the Australian Food Hubs Network, which provides resources, case studies and connections for people operating or starting food hubs in Australia.

Publications

Relevant websites

Key researchers

  • Kirsten Larsen, Research Fellow VEIL
  • Tanya Anne Massy, Project Officer VEIL
  • Prof Chris Ryan, VEIL

Funding

VicHealth Innovation Grant

$200,000

Local Government partners

City of Casey

Non-government sector

Eaterprises
Australian Food Hub Network

Research Institutions

University of Melbourne (VEIL/ABP) Lead