The Quad-Cities Food Hub, an initiative that began in 2010 and has supported local food production and sustainability through its retail market and educational programs, will close its doors in December.
It is “no longer sustainable for us to continue as an organization,” Denise Bulat, president of the Food Hub’s board, said in a Wednesday news release.
A grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that awarded the nonprofit $600,000 over three years to fund staff expired in September. Efforts to secure additional grants and funding have been unsuccessful, Bulat said.
The Food Hub's retail market, 421 W. River Drive, Davenport, will close at the end of October. Starting this weekend, the market's hours will be reduced to 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through the end of the month. The Food Hub will also begin letting go of its 12 part time and full-time employees this week.
“Some of it is the funding and some of it is is our bottom line,” said Liz Hogan, operations manager. “As we see more local food in grocery stores, a nonprofit likes ours is no longer relevant.”
Hogan, who has worked with the Food Hub for three years, said the decision to close is “not a hasty” one.
“We’ve all been saying it’s bittersweet,” she said. “We will miss the vendors and the staff. We just felt this was the right time.”
She said other area organizations “will pick up where we left off.”
With the opening of stores such as Healthy Harvest in Rock Island and Natural Grocers in Davenport as well as more local foods being stocked at area Hy-Vee stores, Bulat says “there’s less of a need for us now.”
The nonprofit's president said it this way in a statement released on Wednesday: "Over the past seven years, there has been a surge in demand for locally produced foods. The availability and amount of local food products is expanding significantly. Consumer decisions to buy local or purchase items for specific product characteristics have led to new marketing opportunities for farmers. The QC Food Hub is proud to have had a part in this paradigm shift."
“We do feel we’ve moved the needle on these conversations,” Bulat said. “And they will continue."
The nonprofit group officially opened its doors in late 2012, after the idea was championed by former Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba. It formed with the mission of supporting local food production, connecting farmers and consumers in Iowa and Illinois and promoting healthy eating.
The city of Davenport and the Riverfront Improvement Commission, formerly the Levee Improvement Commission, have donated the space and utilities for the Food Hub since it opened. The Riverfront Improvement Commission rents out the city-owned Freight House, which also houses Front Street Brewery and Fresh Deli.
Along with the market, which houses locally-produced foods, the nonprofit has provided cooking classes and other educational programs.
Programs scheduled through 2017 still will be held, Bulat said. A list of classes can be found at qcfoodhub.org.
The Food Hub also has served as a business incubator. Several small businesses, such as the Taste of Ethiopia food tent, have used the hub’s commercial kitchen to prepare food to sell at the Freight House Farmers Market or other events.
Additionally, the Food Hub’s virtual market, a subscription website, connects farmers with restaurants or stores where they can sell their products.
“It’s definitely sad,” Bulat said of the closing. “We’re proud of the presence we’ve had. We’re appreciative of all the support and the grants we’ve received along the way.”