More people are eating healthy, locally grown food, and more farmers are earning a profit selling their homegrown products through the work of the Iowa Food Hub. This innovative partnership among local non-profit organizations and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is improving the physical and economic well-being of thousands of residents in northeast Iowa.
The Iowa Food Hub was launched in 2012, and its economic impact has grown quickly and steadily. In 2016, according to its recently released 2016 annual report, the organization sold over $735,000 in local products from 60 area farmers and food-based businesses in northeast Iowa.
Iowa Food Hub is primarily a wholesale distributor to food service, schools, grocery stores, and restaurants. They offer a full product line to meet the growing demand for fresh, nutritious food grown close to home, including produce, meat, eggs, dairy, and other grocery items.
In 2016, the Food Hub expanded its impact by purchasing a larger refrigerated truck and expanding its community food box program by partnering with Extension offices and other non-traditional retailers.
To address food access and equality, the Food Hub sponsored a grant for Farm to Early Childcare efforts in Fayette County and launched a local food fundraiser program for schools and community groups.
The Food Hub supported beginning farmer outreach by sponsoring the gatherings and field days of the NE Iowa Food and Farm Network which features many beginning farmers.
The Food Hub also conducts food system research and education. In 2016, the coordinator participated in a peer group with other food hubs in Iowa, the hub supported the Iowa GroupGAP Network for food safety, investigated the feasibility of a food hub node in the Dubuque area, and constructed a cool-bot trailer for mobile food storage for farms.
The Iowa Food Hub is governed by a volunteer board of directors, with ISU Extension and Outreach staff members Teresa Wiemerslage and Kayla Koether serving as technical advisors. They focus their program efforts on: small and medium-sized farm viability; food access and equality; local economic development; job creation and retention; beginning and established farmers; and food system research and education.
Partnering community organizations include Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative, the Northeast Iowa Food and Farm Coalition, and Luther College Center for Sustainable Communities.