Only 2% of Americans produce food for the entire country. That means that large distributors that sell in bulk, like Sysco, find it more cost effective to haul one truck filled with product cross-country rather than to have local producers provide part of the product. When Michigan State asked Sysco to start providing local options, Sysco answered. It took them 3 years to overhaul their massive production and distribution system, but they found a way.
Here’s how it works:
STEP 1: Sysco representative talks to local farmers about how much produce the distributor needs for the year and the farmer plants accordingly.
STEP 2: Sysco representative forwards list of farmers to a broker.
STEP 3: (a) Small, remote farms deliver to a “food hub” – a satellite collection point from which the broker will pick up the produce. (b) Farmers who live near the broker can deliver the food there themselves. (c) If Sysco needs a farmer’s product badly enough, it will send a truck to pick up the produce.
STEP 4: The broker consolidates the food with those of other local growers, marks where they’re from, and assigns tracking numbers.
STEP 5: Sysco sales reps sell the food, prioritizing local food in the surrounding area before offering produce from other regions.
STEP 6: Customer eats.
While this system doesn’t seem like rocket science, it is a huge leap forward for large food distributors and offers huge possibility to schools across America that have their food provided by similar companies. Keep it up Sysco!