Food hubs play an essential role in the COVID-19 response in Hawai‘i
Community food security and food systems resilience have received much emphasis in the last two decades, at least partially in response to mounting challenges and pressures on the global food system. While empirical research shows strong evidence that direct-to-consumer relationships in the food system predominantly serve affluent communities, during the COVID-19 pandemic local food providers have become a necessity through their provision of essential services, such as hunger relief and home deliveries for vulnerable populations. In this paper, we examine the challenges and opportunities of food hubs—innovations in local food systems that help connect small farmers with local markets—during the COVID-19 pandemic using quantitative and qualitative data from practitioners on the ground. The hubs were not necessarily equipped or experienced in the response needed, but they quickly adapted to the situation and demonstrated success during the pandemic, as illustrated by 200–300% growth in performance metrics such as revenues generated, employees retained, customers served, and farmers supported. The performance of the hubs in response to the multiple challenges accompanying the pandemic demonstrates their key role in food system resilience through features of diversity, functional redundancy, and connectivity, suggesting that disaster preparation should consider local food hubs a necessary service. We provide policy suggestions for supporting their role in local food system resilience beyond the pandemic.
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