Evaluating food hubs
Reporting on a participatory action project
Keywords:Food Hubs, Evaluation, Participatory Research, Local Food, Community Development, Sustainable Food Systems
Food hubs create a range of economic, social, and environmental impacts through a wide variety of activities and programs. Evaluation of these impacts is important; however, many hubs lack the capacity (including time, resources, knowledge, and expertise) to do effective, ongoing evaluation work. This lack of capacity is exacerbated by the difficulties inherent in capturing the kinds of complex, multidimensional, context-specific impacts and outcomes that many of these businesses and organizations strive to achieve. This paper reports on a participatory research project designed to develop a resource to support food hub evaluation efforts. It presents highlights from the guide that was created and discusses associated insights regarding the tensions and opportunities of food hub evaluation. We argue that food hubs need to be engaging in evaluation efforts, even in the face of significant resource constraints, as a means of strengthening individual entities and the sector as a whole. These efforts must be carefully aligned with a hub’s stage of development and context-specific, multifunctional goals. They should also account for food hubs’ emergent, dynamic, and adaptive nature. To that end, participatory evaluation methodologies that take a flexible, collaborative, action-oriented approach are especially relevant.
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