Food Hubs

Revised January 2022


The USDA defines a food hub as, “a business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demand.” Food hubs provide a different type of direct marketing for small and mid-sized farmers by marketing local products, brokering volume sales, coordinating distribution logistics, and helping producers meet industry requirements in areas such as food safety and packaging.

Chefs and cooks have a growing interest in sourcing quality local food ingredients. However, they often don’t have the time or want to deal with more than one supplier. Sourcing food from local growers is a popular trend, and chefs are looking for ways to get fresh, quality food products that they can advertise as being local. Food hubs create this centralized location for a variety of foods, making it easier for institutions and schools to procure local food. Sometimes growers have inflated ideals about selling to restaurants, feeling they can garner premiums for their products. There are other considerations such as delivery, the time involved with taking orders and visiting with the chef regarding quantities and varieties of the food products. Food hubs offer that partnership to please both the customer and the producer.

Providing direct delivery to customers is a service that can set that business apart from the competition, and is a service food hubs can be more prepared to offer than an individual producer. However, additional costs associated with labor and transportation can eat away at the premium that consumers may be willing to pay for the convenience. Likewise, scheduling deliveries to families who are on the go and gone from home a lot could create scheduling difficulties. A route system has proven successful in the past for companies that deliver food products or other services to the customer’s home or place of business. Convenience is a major consideration for the time-strapped consumer and delivery service might be worth the additional costs to that customer. Some customers, such as institutions and restaurants, may expect delivery.



A Manager’s Guide to Food Hub Finances, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Food Hubs 101 Webinar, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Food Hub Directory, USDA AMS

Food Hub Resource Library, Food Systems Leadership Network

National Food Hub Survey, Center of Regional Food Systems, Michigan State University

Regional Food Hub Resource Guide, USDA AMS

Running a Food Hub, Farm Answers, University of Minnesota