No one knows that better than Jesse Rye, co-executive
director of Farm Fresh Rhode Island in Pawtucket, R.I.
“Farm Fresh started 10 years ago, born from a student project at Brown University,” he says. Now, Farm
Fresh’s Market Mobile Program handles aggregation and
distribution for over 60 farms and producers and connects them with more than 200 consumers every week.
“Last year, we moved about $2.1 million worth of food
on behalf of farmers.”
The group also raises funds and secured a grant that
incentivizes Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
(SNAP) users so they can buy fruit and vegetables at the
local market. “SNAP users get an additional $2 on top of
every $5 they spend. That means lower income consumers get the benefits of fresh produce, and the community
gets more money invested into the local economy
and small, local business rather than the national
chain stories,” says Rye.
In addition, Farm Fresh has a culinary education apprenticeship program, called Harvest Kitchen, where local,
at-risk youth in the criminal justice system can learn culinary and life skills. “They create product lines, including
applesauce, pickled products, frozen soups and more,”
says Rye. The products are sold at the local farmers’ market and are available wholesale.
For the Iowa Food Hub, farmers are able to increase production because they are accessing new, larger markets
without the cost burden of marketing and distribution.
“On the consumer side, we’re focused on increasing the
consumption of local food in underserved communities.
That is done by getting the food to schools in poorer
areas,” says Mabe. Unlike many other food hubs, the
Iowa Food Hub is located in a rural area of the state. West
Union has a population of about 3,000. “We’re bringing
jobs and opportunities back into the rural downtowns.”
Mabe finds that much of the local food is exported to
large, urban areas; however, one goal of the Iowa Food
Hub is to increase the rural sales in Northeast Iowa.
“In theory, we can sell everything here, but we need
to create the systems and interest to get to that point.”
The Iowa Food Hub focused on
increasing the consumption of local
food in underserved communities.
Summer Farmers’ Market at Providence’s Armory Park.