MS-A Thesis Final Defense: Jill Hardy

March 25, 2020 9:00 AM EST


Balancing Value and Values: An Examination of the Sustainability of U.S. Food Hubs Using the National Food Hub Survey


Most scholars and practitioners agree that a food hub’s identity must include social and
environmental mission goals and activities that challenge the dominant food system. In
practice, there are limits to the resources food hubs can expend on addressing such missions. Simply, if a food hub does not maintain financial viability, it’s unlikely it will continue to exist to address social and environmental issues.

Using data from the 2015 and 2017 National Food Hub Survey, this research used multiple linear regression to examine the effect of mission related goals on financial viability. Findings suggest that food hubs whose missions highly relate to improving health in their community have a financial advantage over hubs whose missions do not. However, when missions are strongly related to increasing healthy or fresh food access specifically to economically disadvantaged communities, financial viability may suffer. Supplementing revenue with grants and generating non-sales revenue from multiple, diverse grant and fundraising sources acts to offset the impact of intense mission activities on the bottom line, but only when an established hub has been operating for multiple years. This research adds to the quantitative research linking food hub financial viability with business operations and complements qualitative work on food hub’s social missions. In addition, this research provides guidance to food hub funders, planners, and operators as they grapple with the challenges of balancing profit and purpose.

Committee Members

Dr. Michael Hamm (committee chair and advisor)—CSUS
Dir. Rich Pirog
Dr. Daniel McCole—CSUS

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