Michigan Food Hub Network and Incubator Kitchen Network held joint meeting on July 20

Local food systems leaders convened in Detroit to increase collaboration

If someone asked: “How do you think food hubs and incubator kitchens can better work together?” A typical response may be: “Well, what is the difference between the two?”

Food hubs are centrally located facilities with a business management structure facilitating the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution and/or marketing of locally/regionally food products. This means they support the growth of small farm businesses and local product sales in the community by helping with the marketing, storage and/or distribution of their products.

Incubator kitchens, on the other hand, provide small local businesses with a properly licensed facility to make their products in bulk. They typically include cooking appliances, tabletop space, and cleaning areas that cannot be found in most at-home kitchens. Knowing these working definitions, is the initial question now easier to answer?

On July 20, Michigan State University’s Center for Regional Food Systems helped host the first joint meeting between the Michigan Food Hub Network and Incubator Kitchen Network. The meeting was held at the Sacred Heart Parish, adjacent to Eastern Market in Detroit. Members of food systems across Michigan came together to network and share their thoughts and ideas on how food hubs and incubator kitchens can work together to benefit local business owners. Guest speakers from MDARD, MSU Center for Regional Food Systems, the Eastern Market, and Mary Judnich from the office of U.S. Senator Stabenow, all spoke of the work their teams are doing to improve the business environment for agriculture and food businesses in Michigan.

Following the meeting, were two separate field trips to the FEAST co-owned food processing and co-packaging facility, and to the Proud Mitten Kitchen located inside the Plymouth Arts & Recreational Center (PARC) in Plymouth, Michigan. FEAST showed guests their new renovations and talked about their plans for the future. The PARC director gave us a quick tour of their nonprofit site, which was once a high school converted into rental space for small business owners and performing arts members. The old home economics classroom is now the site for the Proud Mitten incubator kitchen.

By the end of the day, all guests appeared to have a better understanding of both incubator kitchens and food hubs, and hopefully interacted enough to successfully increase collaboration between the two organizations.

Michigan State University Extension’s Community Food Systems work team supports food hubs and incubator kitchens as well as other initiatives to grow community-based food systems.  For more information, contact a community food systems educator near you by calling 1-888-678-3464. 

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