Locally grown foods expand to major institutions

The growth of locally grown foods is increasing profits and recognition for smaller farms and bringing consumers healthier and fresher food options.

PHILADELPHIA—Once a niche business, 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 major institutions like Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in downtown Philadelphia, eliminating scores of middlemen from farm to fork. Along the way, they're increasing profits and recognition for smaller farms and bringing consumers healthier, fresher foods.

Over the past five years, with more than $25 million in federal aid, these so-called food hubs have helped transform locally grown foods into a bigger business, supplying hospitals, schools, restaurant chains and grocery stores as consumer demand grows.