There’s a new farmer’s market in your neighborhood. It’s called a food hub and it’s making the same fresh food you buy at the farmer’s market available to consumers in grocery stores, restaurants and even schools. A local food hub provides more benefits than healthy eating; it’s healthy for our economy, too.

Currently, the majority of the food we eat comes from thousands of miles away. It’s unlikely South Carolina consumers will have access to food grown by local mid-size to small farmers.

“Today, less than 10% of what we eat in South Carolina is grown in the state. The rest is imported, some from virtually the other side of the world. Even doubling the percentage of locally grown food to 20% would have enormously positive complications for our economy and for farming communities throughout the state,” says Dana Beach, executive director of South Carolina’s Coastal Conservation League.

Many consumers prefer locally grown food, and South Carolina has a work force and land that are capable of producing it, but the system is working against them. The cost for a small farmer to grow, warehouse and distribute his food is too high. With the right resources, more farmers can produce food and distribute it to a large market just waiting for it to arrive. According to a new federal study, “the average food hub has annual sales of nearly $1 million and creates about 13 jobs.”

In late 2011, the Coastal Conservation League was able to open GrowFood Carolina, the only wholesale distribution center in South Carolina. At 990 Morrison Drive, the warehouse is in a centralized location and has 6,500 square feet of warehouse space where it can house and distribute food grown by local farmers. GrowFood Carolina expects to involve farmers primarily from the Lowcountry and Pee Dee regions.

GrowFood Carolina currently distributes food to grocery stores and restaurants and provides fruits and vegetables to food banks. In the near future, schools and hospitals will be added.  Go to GrowFood Carolina for a list of places where you can find its produce.

In short, local food hubs like GrowFood Carolina are providing vital services to our communities. Not only are they helping bring fresh foods to our tables, they are nourishing the economy, too!

CLF recognizes the importance of providing healthy food options to communities in South Carolina and has recently expanded its services to include healthy food financing. Last year, CLF provided funding to Lowcountry Produce, a healthy food outlet in Beaufort. To learn more about this project, or CLF’s work with healthy food financing, please visit our website at www.sccommunityloanfund.org.