Food System Solutions to Address Food Security and Local Economic Development
The Case of Food Hubs in the Northeastern United States
Socioeconomic inequalities and natural resource exploitation reflect the limitations of how the current food system functions. Global and local conceptual categories are used to describe two alternatives that are shaping the way food is produced, processed, distributed, and consumed. In the United States, food hubs are seen as a model that is able to scale up local and regional food systems in the face of the negative consequences generated by the dominant globally oriented system. Although food security and economic development are the main desirable outcomes for any food system initiative, not much research has been done about how food hubs contribute to these two interrelated key issues. In this study, the research questions have been narrowed down by taking into account the four dimensions through which food security is commonly framed (availability, access, utilization, and stability) and the seven drivers of the community wealth building approach to economic development (ownership, place, multipliers, collaboration, inclusion, workforce, and system). Seven food hubs operating in the Northeastern U.S. were surveyed. Qualitative information was collected about their activities in accordance with the dimensions and drivers included in the adopted conceptual framework. The results suggested that food hubs that operate as business incubators and food processing facilities are involved in several wealth building strategies. Nonetheless, food hubs cannot generally be considered a stand-alone policy to increase food access for underserved social groups.
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