A collective of food hubs in Montana and Washington will expand sales of local food from
small-scale producers to institutions.
The USDA has announced awards for the Regional Food Systems Partnership grant program, including a $1 million award to the NW Food Hub Network. The award will fund a three-year project to grow the regional food hub network and increase market access for small, family farms in the Northwest.
The NW Food Hub Network is a collective of farmer-owned cooperative food hubs in Montana and Washington that seeks to supply institutions across the broader Northwest with locally-grown, sustainable food. The USDA grant funding will further support the over 200 small farmers in the network to supply large institutions like K-12 schools, hospitals, and colleges region-wide.
“After two challenging seasons for our region’s small farms and food hubs due to COVID-19, we are thrilled to see this infusion of federal funding focused on developing our regional, sustainable food system and the Northwest Food Hub Network,” said Kaylee Thornley, Cooperative Development Director of Mission West Community Development Partners and coordinator of the NW Food Hub Network, “The grant will help shorten the food supply chain between local farms and institutions and help institutions leverage their food procurement for good.”
Nationally, public institutions such as hospitals and universities purchase around $120 billion of food annually, but only a small percentage of institutional food service budgets are spent on local food. The NWFHN is hoping to shift this paradigm by working together to grow the presence of local food in the largely untapped institutional market channel. The three-year project will help the food hub network scale-up by expanding value-added processing of local produce, improving food system supply chain logistics, and addressing gaps in marketing of local food. The project will also support the development of interoperable software to allow the food hubs to digitally aggregate inventory on a single sales platform.
The hubs that belong to the NWFHN include LINC Foods near Spokane, WA, Puget Sound Food Hub in Mt. Vernon, WA, and Western Montana Growers Cooperative in Missoula, MT. The project is coordinated by Mission West Community Development Partners in Ronan, MT. The project also brings together a broader partnership of nearly 30 organizations in the public and private sector to support aspects of the project. More information about the Northwest Food Hub Network can be found on the Network’s website, www.nwfoodhubnetwork.com.