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United Way Receives $25,000 USDA Grant to Study Feasibility of Food Hub

United Way of Southeastern Connecticut has received a $25,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) 2014 Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) to conduct a study to determine the feasibility and sustainability of a Food Hub in New London County.

A Food Hub is a centrally located facility with a business management structure facilitating the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution, and marketing of locally and/or regionally produced food products. It brings together professional food buyers, producers, distributors, and industry suppliers in one community.

A Food Hub is available for all types of food buyers including chefs, restaurants, schools, and food service directors. For the sellers including farmers, dairies, and specialty producers, a Food Hub is an easier, simpler, and direct way to promote and sell their products.

United Way, along with the New London County Food Policy Council and the Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Center, will work with other community partners on the research. Connecticut College has already committed project support and College resources through its Office of Sustainability. The study is planned to be completed by June 2015.

“New London County is rich in agriculture,” notes Dina Sears-Graves, Vice President of Community Investment at United Way. “Our region joins the nation in the rising demand for locally grown produce, dairy, and other farming products.”

The study will address numerous issues including:

  • The number of farmers in New London County and whether or not they can support the demand generated by a Food Hub;
  • The level of commitment from local markets to source their produce, dairy, and other products from a Food Hub;
  • The level of advocacy from local government to support a connection between farmers and consumers;
  • The existing assets that could be leveraged to meet infrastructure and operating demand of a county Food Hub; and
  • The type of Food Hub business model and facility infrastructure that would best suit the needs of New London County producers and consumers.

For more than fifty years, United Way of Southeastern Connecticut has been advancing the common good by creating opportunities for a better life for all, focusing on the building blocks for a good quality of life – education, income, and health. United Way engages people and organizations that bring the passion, expertise, and resources needed to get things done. Everyone is invited to be part of the change by donating and volunteering. United Way of Southeastern Connecticut is a locally-based nonprofit organization serving the towns of New London County.

United Way operates the Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Center which helps to feed more than 22,000 people each month through its network of more than 90 local free food distribution sites and its Mobile Food Pantry program. United Way is also an active partner is the New London County Food Policy Council, a group of community members collaborating in support of a healthier food system in the region.