New Guide Helps Food Hub Managers Evaluate Their Own Operations

Financial metrics help mission-driven organizations achieve sustainability


AMES, Iowa – As the saying goes, “you get what you measure.” Food hubs, which are triple-bottom-line businesses that move regional farm products to market, have shown promise in connecting local farmers and customers.

Food hub managers touring Iowa Valley food hubIowa State University Extension and Outreach publication “A Manager’s Guide to Food Hub Finances” (LF 0015A) gives food hub managers tools for measuring their business’ financial health while also addressing common financial concerns that arise in local food distribution. A companion spreadsheet (LF 0015B) provides an additional tool to calculate and interpret key metrics from a food hub’s operation.

The guide is based on a series of case studies and interviews with food hubs around the country, as well as discussions with financial institutions and service providers who work with food hubs.

“We’ve tried to bring together advice from different sectors of the food industry with the experience of people who’ve managed a local food distribution business,” said Savanna Lyons, former graduate student at Iowa State University and the publication’s lead author. “We provide a set of key metrics to help food hubs evaluate themselves and set goals for the future.”

The guide contains fictionalized examples based on actual food hubs, giving readers practice in interpreting financial data.

More than 300 food hubs are currently operating in the United States, with at least 16 local food aggregators or distributors in Iowa. The Local Foods Program team with ISU Extension and Outreach facilitates a statewide food hub managers working group and has developed a series of other publications for that audience, addressing food safety, production planning, cash flow management and more.

The publication was funded in part with support from the Wallace Center at Winrock International and the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.