The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation hosted a one-day symposium bringing together some of the major players across the food value chain in North America. The meeting facilitated dialogue around how to build on the existing distribution systems to capture more of the great food grown in Ontario and bring it to market.
The five panelists came from across the US with diverse backgrounds in the food industry providing attendees with differing perspectives from research and policy to investment support and food hub management. Each panelist echoed each other’s sentiment that food hubs are good for farmers and the economy and collaboration from all levels of the value chain is essential for success.
There are a variety of methods to organizing a hub, from delivery truck drop off points to full processing facilities. One of the key points made by food hub manager’s Robin Morris of Mad River Food Hub in Vermont and Evan Smith of Cherry Capital Foods in Michigan is the importance of expanding offerings beyond produce. One option is for a hub to supply proteins and, if possible, offer further processed products to better service customers with local all year round.
Distributors Gordon Food Service and Sysco, and operators Aramark, Compass Canada andSodexo, were in attendance to provide perspective on how they are changing to meet the growing customer demand for more local. The distributors and operators also used the opportunity to talk to farmers and local food organizations to determine how they can better work together.
The meeting created a lot of positive dialogue around the future of food distribution in Ontario. With support from the McConnell and Metcalf Foundations, the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation are working with select partners to pilot a new distribution model that leverages the efficiencies of large-scale distribution and capitalizes on the product variation and freshness that smaller-scale aggregators provide. This successful meeting was the first stage in the Foundation’s project.
- Julienne Spence, Senior Communications Manager, Greenbelt Fund