Democratized, regional food systems – rooted in multi-generational strategies for community ownership – create vibrant and diverse economies that build wealth. The Wallace Center has long supported local food hubs and radiating value-chains as ways to build these economies. As we evolve to meet the needs of our communities, our work is leveraging tools and strategies in equitable finance and innovation to build and uplift food systems change.
Physical infrastructure like warehouses and trucks are essential to regional food economies. But they also require coordination – people and organizations who make fruitful connections between businesses and organizations in the supply chain; who pilot new ideas; who make the political and business ground fertile for success. Value Chain Coordination is the development of soft infrastructure, like relationships, networks and information sharing channels, that creates thriving and sustainable regional food economies.
In 2019, the Wallace Center and the Delta Institute conducted research to understand current grass-fed beef production, processing and end-markets in Illinois. Phase Two of this work will leverage the knowledge of regenerative grazing and grass-fed value chains in Illinois to engage stakeholders in a priority watershed to build localized momentum for regional change.
A food hub is a business or organization that manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demand. Food hubs play a critical role in building connections between farmers and consumers to strengthen regional economies and communities. Wallace Center has developed hundreds of resources to improve food hubs’ operation and raise awareness of this critical link in the value chain.
The Wallace Center manages the COVID-19 Response Group, a listserv to connect food systems leaders across the U.S. to share the emerging strategies, collaborations and innovations that are being created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the food sector. In response to listserv discussions, we partner with individuals with topical expertise to deliver calls that address concerns and issues, distill learnings and insights from conversations, and share information back with key food systems partners including funders, the USDA, policymakers, and other national organizations.