Finding fresh produce among the soda and chips in a New York City bodega or corner store can be a nearly impossible task. But only a few hours north of these neighborhood mainstays—the only option in many of the city’s low-wealth communities—are acres of fruit and vegetables grown by small and mid-sized farmers. Yet the produce from these small, locally owned farms rarely finds its way onto the plates of families in these communities. Locally sourced produce can be found in the city, though usually at high-end specialty retailers.
New York’s Corbin Hill Food Project, a Surdna grantee, is working to rebuild regional food systems, a critical—but often overlooked—part of our infrastructure. Most of the food we eat comes to us via a consolidated and centralized system dominated by a handful of conglomerates that continue to choke off the local supply chains of a once-dominant regional food system. By linking farms in upstate New York to community organizations in underserved areas of the city, and through a program that allows residents to purchase fresh produce using their federal SNAP benefits, Corbin Hill has devised a way to supply fresh, affordable produce to some of the people who need—and want—it most.
Called food hubs, businesses like Corbin Hill are not traditional buyers or sellers of produce. Instead, they perform a variety of services including picking up produce directly from local and regional farmers, or from regional drop-off points, and sorting, packing, loading and—like Corbin Hill—delivering food to city residents.
Dennis Derryck, Corbin Hill’s visionary founder, is committed to ensuring that farmers get the best prices possible for their produce while also making certain that families can afford the food. And his organization, which adheres to a social impact mission, works to create a sense of community connecting rural farming families and urban consumers.
To help accelerate the growth of the regional food system, Surdna is supporting the Wallace Center’s National Good Food Network to build the capacity of food hubs by creating opportunities for connection, conducting outreach and research, providing technical assistance, and initiating partnerships.