Using Food Hubs to Improve Community Health

Expanding the food distribution system to ensure that food banks have access to healthy, local foods

Full Project Name:Using Food Hubs to Improve Community Health by Getting Better Food to More PeoplePrimary Community Organization:Feeding America of Eastern WisconsinPrimary Academic Partner:Leslie Ruffalo, PhD, Family and Community MedicineAward Amount:$501,268
Award Date
Project Duration:48 months

Project Description Narrative:

In traditional hunger relief, fresh food is costly and inefficient to source and store, leading to over-reliance by food banks and pantries on shelf-stable products that lack nutritional value. To address a need for increased access to local healthy foods, Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin and partners developed and piloted Farm Link, a community food hub connecting local producers to institutional buyers and hunger-relief programs. To expand the success of the Farm Link pilot project, partners will decentralize Farm Link across the state to create efficient connections among people to increase access to high-quality local produce and create additional opportunities farmers to supply healthy local food.

Community Partners:
Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP), Wisconsin Local Food Network, Wisconsin Slo-Food Co-op, Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative, Feeding Wisconsin

Project Updates:

  • Received long-term funding commitment for Farm Link contract growing that will fund the 2020 and 2021 growing seasons. This allowed for scaling of production from 80,000 to 150,000 pounds of produce during 2020
  • Held more than 84 meetings with external and internal stakeholders, including two hosted Farm Link luncheons 
  • Received Invitations to: Hunger and Health Summit; Produce Summit; Milwaukee Community Foundation and the Racine Community Foundation
  • Established a three-year partnership between FAEW and a Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA). PHA has developed a flexible framework for food banks to reform their distribution models and food tracking systems so that ecouraged foods are prioritized and increased
  • Shut down the Farm Link marketplace due to careful analysis and assessments of the food bank's financial resources and physical assets. It was determined that current and future constraints on resources would not allow the marketplace to achieve what it was designed to do for the food bank
  • Transitioned marketplace users to FoodChain, Inc.'s marketplace

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