As one of the region’s largest food distribution centers, the Bronx, N.Y.-based Hunts Point Terminal Market has long purchased and distributed locally and regionally grown produce to its many retail and foodservice customers.

Distributors from throughout the region enjoy the benefits of sourcing and distributing local products during the summer and fall.

Purchases of locally grown produce have increased by as much as 200% for Long Island distributor J. Kings Foodservice Professionals Inc., Holtsville, N.Y., said Joel Panagakos, executive vice president.

Panagakos attributed the boost to increasing interest in local produce.

“It’s a wave that started several years ago that keeps growing and growing,” he said. “It’s great when our trucks can pick up these items on a Monday afternoon and be able to deliver them to the Hilton hotel on Tuesday morning. You can’t get better than that. There’s no need to have product flown in for this or that. It’s picked daily and is really helpful to our customers.”

Panagakos said sourcing locally grown produce also has helped take costs out of the system.

In addition to its roots with California growers, D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of New York Inc. also has ties to New Jersey growers and sells New Jersey product.

Hunts Point remains the region’s largest handler of fruit and vegetables, said Matthew D’Arrigo, market co-chairman and D’Arrigo Bros.’ vice president.

“We all handle local,” D’Arrigo said. “Do we get much credit for that? I don’t believe so. We certainly handle a tremendous amount of local product and will continue to handle it. The more we sell, the more we will handle.”

As market vendors are representatives of all products, wholesalers don’t have a horse in the race and will take whatever shipping source arrives at the market, D’Arrigo said.

“Are we a marketing firm for local produce? No,” he said. “We are not marketing specifically local but we will reflect the demand for local product. We’re a terminal market that sells all products.”

While the abundance of locally grown produce occurs in the summer, wholesalers continue selling smaller quantities of product such as hard squash through early January, said Carlos Garcia, general manager of New York-based Krisp-Pak Sales Corp.

While he said he likes interest in local, Garcia said he doesn’t necessarily think interest has increased.

“The produce sold from the farm stands is mostly from the market,” Garcia said. “About 90% of the time, all that product, especially at the beginning, comes from the market, not the farm. Once they start up, they may have a little but not a lot.”

Local produce always attracts interest, said Richard Cochran, president of Robert T. Cochran & Co. Inc., New York.

“Prices were pretty good this year for the local grown,” he said. “The retailers like it because they figure they can pay less. Locally grown has been a big part of our business. We have farmers we have dealt with for years.”

Joe Granata, director of produce for RLB Food Distributors LP, West Caldwell, N.J., said there’s a big push for the locally grown product.

“We do a lot of New Jersey fresh,” he said. “That really grew last year big time. The push this year will be towards that locally grown. The buzzwords out there are that it’s fresher and that it’s safer. Those are the perceptions.”

RLB also sources a variety of regionally grown produce such as apples, cucumbers, eggplant, bell peppers and tomatoes from New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.