“This is huge for the local community, for our farmers, for our unemployed individuals looking to find vocational skills and employment. It’s strengthening that connection between farmers and consumers in the Quad Cities and surrounding areas.” — Carla Jaquet, Executive Director, Quad Cities Food Hub
Having blogged “blasts from my pasts” the last several weeks, I thought you might be wondering what I have been doing lately. Well, this city kid has been learning a lot about food hubs.
Thanks to my “sister” Shelley Sheehy from my National Community Reinvestment Coalition family, I was introduced last June to Carla Jaquet. Carla farms a small acreage on the family’s farm in Erie, Illinois, which is the heart of Wild Hare Farmers – a family based cooperative with focus on experiential learning and community education.
Carla’s involvement with the Quad Cities Food Hub [QCFH] began in August 2010 as one of the original 25 steering committee members when she worked for University of Illinois Extension. As a founding board director in July 2012, she co-authored QCFH’s vision, mission, and goals to connect farmers and consumers in Iowa and Illinois. She continued as a board director until December 2013 when she was hired as QCFH’s first Executive Director.
Today, the Quad Cities Food Hub is a non-profit, bi-state, community-based initiative designed to strengthen and augment regional local food production and consumption by expanding opportunities in both the delivery and demand of local and nutritious food. Central to their mission is the aggregation and distribution of locally produced food and farm related products from a multitude of diverse vendors, while assisting area farmers and value added producers in growing and maintaining a sustainable business model.
Thanks to my partnership with Marcus Weiss, President of the Economic Development Assistance Consortium (EDAC), I had the opportunity to work with Carla in applying for a federal grant from the Office of Community Services (OCS) Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) which supports projects that increase access to healthy, affordable food in communities that currently lack these options.
On September 29th, the Quad Cities Food Hub received notice that they have been awarded $600,000 for their proposed Healthy Food & Farms Project, one of 14 HFFI grants made nationally in 2014. QCFH will now be able to extend its retail store year-round with expanded hours, initiate virtual food box ordering as an option, and deploy a second Healthy Food Mobile to increase access in food deserts.
The grant will enable QCFH to complete two licensed shared-use commercial-grade kitchens to serve as a producer / processor of value-added product with locally-sourced ingredients and to offer an affordable venue for new and existing value-added food production entrepreneurs and caterers. Assistance will also be offered to local Iowa and Illinois farmers to increase their yield capacity and provide updates on methods, regulations, equipment and materials. I will be continuing to work with Carla and the QCFH’s board to pursue a social enterprise model to create 30 new full-time positions to achieve these objectives.
According to the 2013 National Food Hub Survey by Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems and The Wallace Center at Winrock International:
• Approximately 222 regional food hubs now operate in the US.
• 62% of food hubs surveyed in 2013 started up within the last five years.
• Food hubs averaged more than $3 million in 2012 revenue; and
• 31% had $1 million or more in annual revenue.
Food hubs are linking the commercial and community sides of local food. Other communities around the country are no longer waiting for a grocery chain to discover them. They are seeking out direct links to local foods, whether through urban agriculture and/or connecting to near-by farmers.
Congressman Dave Loebsack (Iowa 2nd Congressional District) emphasized the significance of this growing (my pun-intended) community development movement in his support for QCFH’s federal application:
“Growing up in poverty and being raised by my single mother and grandmother who often struggled to put food on the table, I know how difficult it can be to find and afford fresh, healthy foods on a limited budget. I’ve always been a strong believer in the importance of having healthy food options for all Americans, and it’s great to see the Quad Cities Food Hub working to do exactly this.”
For this week’s closing hymn, Carla offers a multi-media selection. She nominates Coldplay’s haunting classic ‘The Scientist’ as performed by country music legend Willie Nelson for the soundtrack of the Chipotle-sponsored “Cultivate a Better World” animated short film entitled, “Back to the Start.”
Questions of science
Science and progress
Don’t speak as loud as my heart….
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be so hard
I’m going back to the start