An investigation into the workings of small-scale food hubs

One of the key challenges facing local food is the issue of economically viable and sustainable distribution. This report analyses 11 small-scale community-run food hubs, examining what they share in common, how they differ, and how the organisers have sought to overcome the challenges they face


An investigation into the workings of small-scale food hubsOne of the key challenges facing local food is the issue of developing economically viable and sustainable distribution. This report analyses 11 small-scale, community-run food hubs, examining what they share in common, how they differ, and how the organisers have sought to overcome the challenges they face.

Sustain and the University of Glamorgan investigated a range of different small-scale, community-run food hubs across the UK to determine whether there were common factors in their features, development and services. Our interest in these hubs was to see whether they form part of the answer to rebuilding consumer-producer relationships and if so, what principles of success, synergies and areas of uniqueness can be found in these food hubs.

The development of alternative models for food supply and distribution are of critical importance in
developing a more healthy, sustainable, ethical and secure food system. However, it is also the case that the power of the prevailing food system means that community-based food hubs routinely struggle to be economically viable. This appears to be particularly true of those hubs who supply unprocessed (i.e. non value-added) food, particularly fruit and vegetables. These businesses are competing directly with the finetuned economic models of supermarkets and large wholesalers.

Although very diverse, the food hubs interviewed for this research were united in their concern to ‘go against the grain’ of the conventional food system and develop alternative models founded on more ethical and sustainable principles. All of them were trying to build direct, mutually beneficial relationships with growers. The report provides insights into the challenges they face.


Report contents

Background and methodology

Key findings

Results and discussion

  • Leadership
  • Structure and systems
  • Diversifi cation
  • Finance

Conclusion and recommendations

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01/11/2009
Making Local Food Work

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