Once a niche, local foods becoming big business - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

Once a niche, local foods becoming big business

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By MARY CLARE JALONICK
Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Locally grown foods aren't just for farmers markets anymore.

A growing network of companies and organizations is delivering food directly from local farms to institutions like hospitals and schools, eliminating middlemen from farm to fork. They're increasing profits for smaller farms and bringing consumers healthier foods.

These so-called food hubs have helped transform locally grown foods into a bigger business with more than $25 million in federal aid.

The model is simple. The organizations pick up food from regional farmers and take it directly to city customers, along with detailed information about where it was grown or produced.

Since 2009, the Agriculture Department has upped its commitment to small farms and locally grown food.

It's a cultural transformation for the agency, which has long been focused on the biggest farms.

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