Food Hubs and Rebuilding Missing Middle Market Structure in Agriculture: The Social in Supply Chain Development

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food hubs, infrastructure, middle market structure, public good, supply chain


Tens of millions of Americans became food insecure during the COVID-19 pandemic as independent farmers dumped millions of tons of food due to economic lockdowns. Yet contract growers looped into vertically integrated monopoly supply chains escaped system breakdowns. Food provisioning is often seen as polarized between local scale and continental/ global market scale. Food supply and consumption are functions more of market structure than scale. Farmers reliant on direct sales to local restaurants, schools, universities, and hospitals saw their markets evaporate overnight. This Food Away from Home market constitutes 54 percent of food consumed nationally yet is vulnerable since direct-to-consumer sales lack supply chain structure. Urban food hubs dotting American cities before their eclipse by agrifood monopolies could have maintained supply. The food hub was a resilient public supply channel (a food commons) organizing a plurality of local and global providers alike. To address food insecurity our food planning effort for the State of Hawaii is premised on building similar missing middle market structure featuring a food hub, a food innovation center, and farm base yard processing facilities.