A grower-buyer meeting was Feb. 19 at the Kaufmann Foundation Conference Center in Kansas City, and Emily Lucas, local project coordinator for Greater KC Food Hub Working Group, said 80 people attended the meeting.
The group is a coalition of 14 organizations, and has been meeting for about two-and-a-half years to identify ways to strengthen relationships between regional growers and institutions, she said.
The group determined a feasibility study was needed to understand the needs of regional producers and buyers, Lucas said.
That effort began in July 2013, and Lucas said the final report will be issued by July.
The study is funded by the Greater Kansas City Health Care Foundation, the Kansas Health Foundation and Menorah Legacy Foundation. KC Healthy Kids is administering the grant and also provides resources for fundraising and administrative support, Lucas said.
The feasibility study was the result of interviews with 139 fruit and vegetable growers and 121 buyers within a 250-mile radius seeking to determine the potential of a food hub.
At the Feb. 19 meeting, there was lively conversation between buyers and sellers.
“There was a lot of good feedback from producers who are currently selling wholesale, and interest among producers and buyers in the room for the food hub,” she said.
The Feb. 19 event helped growers, buyers and the project team help determine feasibility for a food hub and to seek out the best operating model to meet those needs, Lucas said.
By May 6, the group will decide whether to proceed, she said.
“If we have a go decision, then we look for an operator and then the operator moves into business planning,” she said.
Phil Pisciotta, owner of Fresh Food Express LLC, Kansas City, Mo., is part of the steering committee for the feasibility study.
Pisciotta said local food production helps the regional economy and rebuilds agriculture around a population center.
“There are more controlled growing systems that are sprouting in greenhouses and even in warehouses with LED lights,” he said.
NOTE ON CORRECTION: The original article incorrectly stated the results of the feasibility study were shared at the Feb. 19. The completed feasibility study will be released in July.