The Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) and the University of Tennessee have launched a collaborative study to see if a food hub should be developed in the Knoxville area. Such an operation may help local farmers and small- and medium-sized food producers get their products into the market and give communities better access to locally produced food.
It is also estimated that the project could help create up to 5,000 new jobs and $5.8 million in new local and state tax revenues.
MPC will partner with economists from the University of Tennessee’s Institute for Agriculture as well as local farmers, distributors, aggregators, processors, and consumers to assess the status of supply and demand for local and regional food.
Growing the local food economy ranked among the top priorities voiced by residents during the Plan East Tennessee process. Plan East Tennessee was a three-year regional planning effort for Anderson, Blount, Knox, Loudon, and Union counties. As part of this project, a team of UT researchers led by assistant professor Chad Hellwinckel produced the Knoxville Regional Foodshed Assessment.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced more than $52 million in grants nationwide to support local and regional food systems, with MPC awarded $25,000 to study the feasibility of a food hub for the Knoxville region.