By Hannah Scott, OCDC Program Manager
Participants in the Ohio and West Virginia Food Hub Network learned first-hand the ins and outs of aggregating, distributing and even processing fresh produce when they toured multiple central Ohio produce companies during their recent quarterly meeting. Food hub stakeholders and support organizations from across the region were welcomed at Sanfillipo Produce Co., DNO Produce, LLC and DNO, Inc. of Columbus, Ohio, which have roots in produce wholesale and distribution spanning 100 years.
The tours of operational facilities gave participants the chance to observe working facilities, learn from employees about how produce is sources from growers, protocols for aggregating and distributing products to restaurants, grocers, institutions and other customers, as well as the importance of high quality and safe produce throughout aggregation, processing and distribution.
The Ohio Cooperative Development Center (OCDC) at The Ohio State University South Centers leads the Ohio and West Virginia Food Hub Network. The program is a peer exchange network of representatives from new and emerging food hubs and incubator training farms as well as technical assistance providers from a various organizations. The regional effort began in early 2014 and participants now come together four times a year for programs that address the challenges of developing food hubs and training farms. Meetings also create a space for stakeholders to learn from one another. Past programs have focused on financial planning and finance resources, examining successful models, and quality and safety assurance. The network also incorporates other activities throughout the year, including educational webinars.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines regional food hubs 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.” Efforts to create food hubs in Ohio and West Virginia have gained a great deal of interest recently; the businesses can create a variety of community benefits, including market access for local and regional producers.
The Ohio and West Virginia Food Hub Network will continue the learning about successful aggregation and distribution models at their upcoming August meeting in Davis, West Virginia. If you are interested in learning more about the meeting or registering, please visit the following link http://southcenters.osu.edu/cooperatives/ocdc-non-profit-local-foods-network-inc
If you are interested in learning more about cooperative food hubs or the Ohio and West Virginia Food Hub Network, please contact Hannah Scott, firstname.lastname@example.org or 740-289-2071 x227.