Iowa City awards area nonprofit $45,000 to open local food hub

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Iowa City is hoping a new investment can boost the local foods economy.

The city council voted 6-0, with one council member absent, to provide the nonprofit group Field to Family with $45,000. The money will go towards the organization's largest expansion ever: to create a local food hub in the city to help provide locally produced food to area institutions like schools and hospitals.

The revenue for the nonprofit Field to Family was just more than $90,000 in 2018, so receiving a $45,000 commitment serves as a big statement of confidence from the city. City staff says that move makes sense because it aligns with their long-term vision.

Field to Family currently shares space in Iowa City with Table to Table. On the second floor of the building on South Capitol St., staff works with local farmers to see what foods are ripe and how to get it to larger institutions.

"[It's] not something like a CSA or a farmer's market where farmers are kind of catering directly to the consumer, but moreso working with hospitals, retirement communities, K-12 schools," said Giselle Bruskewitz, the food hub manager for Field to Family.

Ashley Monroe, the Iowa City Assistant City Manager, said this local food effort falls in line with the city's sustainability efforts, climate action plan, and encouraging local food production.

"We're trying to identify ways that we can reach further into the community with new partners in the local foods arena," Monroe said.

"This investment from the city really will propel and enable us to meet our demand for our region," said Michelle Kenyon, the director of Field to Family.

After a number of interested groups inquired, the city council agreed Tuesday night to award the money to Field to Family. With it, Field to Family will buy a new refrigeration truck, cold storage, and work on a new website.

"Someone needed to fill that gap," Kenyon said. "And Field to Family was the obvious choice because of our work already to work with large institutions on the school district level."

Those involved say goal is not to out-do larger scale competitors; instead, it serves as a chance to boost the local foods economy.

"By putting it all in one location, they can serve a greater number of people throughout the community," Monroe said.

"To be able to prioritize this product when it is available, and to have a commitment from our institutional customers to do that is really what we're after," Bruskewitz said.

The money will come with a quick turnaround for the nonprofit group- Field to Family is planning to start operations next week, even as they continue to expand.

For more information on Field to Family, visit their website.