The Food Hub concept is based around the idea of the ‘Local Food Ecosystem’. The Local Food Ecosystem food includes producers (both large scale and small), retailers, processors, restaurants, institutional catering, organisations which distribute food to people on a low income: anyone whose occupation involves food in the local area.
Of course, a network of local food businesses already exists. What makes this network turn into an ecosystem is when all its members work collaboratively to support one another and achieve a level of functioning that wouldn’t be possible individually. The Food Hub improves connectivity between local food businesses and coordinates the food supply chain to achieve social and environmental benefits. The Food Hub does not seek to profit by buying and selling food, instead the Food Hub is a provider of services and facilities that are designed to enable members of the local food ecosystem to trade directly with one another, and the Food Hub will always act in the best interests of the members of the ecosystem.
Specifically, the social and environmental benefits which stem from an efficiently functioning local food ecosystem are:
- Reduction of systematic food waste: by balancing the needs of different types of food users the Food Hub will ensure that all food entering the system finds a destination where it is valued.
- Reduction of emissions associated with food storage and transportation: sourcing food directly from local farms rather than farms that are further afield saves food miles, of course. However, a local food ecosystem can distribute food more efficiently still, by collectively transporting the goods of multiple producers and food processors via coordinated delivery routes.
- More equitable distribution of food throughout the community: specifically, making good quality, healthy food more accessible to people on a low income.
Food businesses who choose to be a part of the local food ecosystem will not only benefit themselves, they will be contributing to the worthy local causes simply through their normal trading.
Perhaps the greatest point of differentiation between a local food network and a local food ecosystem is when the members recognise that they are a part of something which is greater than themselves as individuals, and more importantly find themselves better off as a member of the ecosystem than they would be otherwise. As members of the ecosystem businesses are asked to think about their role in its functioning: how can they support other members of the ecosystem and how does the ecosystem support them?