Last semester, with financial support from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), the Edible Economy Project engaged Illinois Business Consulting (IBC) at the University of Illinois to identify and recommend solutions that will help in establishing a local food hub in central Illinois. According to the USDA, a food hub acts as “a business or organization that actively coordinates the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified locally grown food products from primarily small to mid-sized producers.”
The IBC consultants identified the following benefits of food hubs:
- Creates jobs
- Improves local economy
- Improves health of citizens
- Reduces energy consumption
- Decreases impact on environment
To jump start food hub efforts, Edible Economy engaged the IBC, which is a program run by U of I students in the Business School that helps clients tap the University’s top student talent. A team of 8 students led by Senior Manager Megan Cook, a Senior in Accountancy & Finance, and Project Manager John Busch, a Junior in Finance in Agribusiness, accepted the challenge and worked up a set of recommendations that would culminate in the formation of a business cooperative to develop the hub. The students presented their conclusions after sharing a market analysis and a business plan to the Edible Economy Steering Group on Dec 10. You can view the IBC presentation here.
With the roadmap provided by the IBC, the Edible Economy team is currently planning for next steps–including meetings with Central Illinois farmers and community members to explore establishment of a producer cooperative to own and operate a food hub network in our region. Watch this website for additional details as plans evolve. If you would like to be involved in planning for next steps, send an email at email@example.com.
The following is an example of some of the key findings from IBC’s market analysis.