|May 04, 2011 --
Outline Of Need
Buying local foods is good for producers, giving farmers and ranchers more outlets for their products. It is good for aggregators and sellers, as it can reduce shipping costs and fossil fuel use. It is also good for consumers, who gain access to fresh, nutritious edibles. In addition, buying local food enhances economic development by keeping more of the consumers’ food dollars in the local economy.
USDA has been working to expand these benefits among larger audiences through the Know Your Farmer initiative, as well as a number of programs.
How Rural Development Helped
In 2007, USDA Rural Development awarded the Portland-based nonprofit Ecotrust with a $12,500 Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG). Ecotrust, which had been active in forging connections among farmers, ranchers and food buyers in the Pacific Northwest, used the funding to plan and develop an innovative new food marketing Web site called FoodHub. In 2009, they were awarded a second RBEG for $21,370 to get FoodHub up and running. In 2010, USDA awarded Ecotrust a Rural Business Opportunity Grant for nearly $250,000 to help extend FoodHub’s reach, expanding the network to wholesalers and retailers across the Northwest while serving as a template for other regional food efforts across the country.
Ecotrust launched an elaborate, sophisticated online food marketplace called FoodHub in February of 2010. A wide range of more than 1,500 producers, aggregators and end users can use the site to find each other to do business.
FoodHub provides users with opportunities to increase business efficiencies, generate market visibility, and shorten supply chains. It allows producers to tell their stories and buyers to know more about how their food was produced and handled.
The system includes large and small producers as well as organic and conventional products, both direct and distributed. From institutional food buyers and corporate cafés, schools and hospitals, to parking lot food carts, the site offers a valuable tool for acquiring healthy, regional food at a reasonable price. In fact, more than 100 school districts and pre-K establishments have joined, using the site to lock in growing contracts for the next school year. These school districts serve more than 400,000 children, who now have more options for fresh, healthy foods.
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