Natalie Neumann and Rosalind Sharpe from the Food Research Collaboration have created a Food Research Collaboration Discussion Paper titled “Sustainable food hubs and food system resilience: Plugging gaps or forging the way ahead?”

This is the last report in the Food Research Collaboration’s (FRC) research investigating the role and capabilities of sustainable food hubs in the UK.

This is a timely piece of work when we see so many food hubs struggling after a very difficult winter. This report shows how important food hubs are and can be in the future, the barriers to them thriving and what needs to happen for them to be secure and resilient.

The authors of the paper have given this synopsis:

“The UK has a diverse range of sustainable food hubs, sitting at the heart of local or regional food systems throughout the country, and operated by people skilled at sourcing and distributing food within their localities. Potentially, they could offer an important layer of resilience to the UK’s food system in times of crisis – whether from stresses such as climate change or shocks such as Brexit or the Ukraine war. This was put to the test during the Covid-19 pandemic, which revealed both the strengths and the weaknesses of food hubs. For this Discussion Paper, we asked food hub operators what role they see their hubs playing in national emergency food planning and food system resilience. They all said they could play a big part – but that ongoing struggles to stay in business undermine their ability to withstand shocks. This represents a weak link in UK food resilience. For the hubs to be strong and flexible enough to be able to stretch in times of future crisis, they need enlightened, enabling policy and infrastructure to be put in place now.”

As a summary, this report found that:

  • Sustainable food hubs contribute to food system resilience
  • Sustainable food hubs are struggling
  • Cultural perceptions and norms inhibit resilience
  • Local food systems need support to enhance their resilience

As a result, the authors suggest that policy actions to strengthen their resilience could include:

  • Recognising and bolstering the value of local food systems within all relevant policy
  • Recognising the importance of local food systems within national contingency and emergency planning
  • Rewarding and supporting sustainable food hubs and other small food enterprises for their contribution to a more sustainable and resilient food system
  • Supporting small-scale growers/farmers in the UK
  • Investing in public infrastructure for local food systems

– Jo da Silva (UK Support)

Interested in digging deeper into these points?

We recommend reading the full report which you can download by clicking the button below.