This is part of a series of posts related to the Las Vegas Food Hub project.
Food hubs are an interesting piece of infrastructure we don't see but desperately need. As you read, key terms start to float to the surface of the sea of words, charts, and diagrams: food desert, distribution, producers and farmers, wholesale and point of sale, consumer, markets, processing, packaging, etc.
What is a food hub? Our group had the opportunity to study food hubs (in oppose to analyzing climate conditions or zoning/code for the 2 sites in Downtown Las Vegas) and we found some excellent resources from Wholesome Wave, the USDA's Food Hub Resource, and the National Good Food Network. As a primer, consider Red Tomato's excellent video on how a hood hub can work...
The research was broken down into key questions:
- What type of food hub do we want?
- How should I structure my food hub?
- How should our food hub work?
- What products should I offer?
- What is a food hub anyway?
- How do I create a network?
- What does my food hub need?
- How much space do I need
The research I focused on was the first three questions, which lead to a fundamental definition of what food hubs are and the fact that these are vague in definition because of how flexible the offerings and services can be.
A food hub focuses on improving food security, the concept that people should have access to high quality and fresh food all of the time. This isn't easy and with moderate surprise, it isn't always something we have. Yes, we have grocery stores that always have red apples and fresh eggs no matter the season or climate, but that comes from an extensive infrastructure and economy that is reliant on national and internationally scaled arrangements. The
comes at the cost of transportation costs and the unfortunate baggage that comes with shipping food halfway around the world. It also relies on a constant and efficient use of infrastructure which can have issues (consider sparse shelves before a hurricane hits a major city, people stock up and run stores dry). Food security comes through the strengthening of local growers, which has lots of happy benefits, from a stronger local economy, local jobs and quality sourcing, and it makes people feel better.
Making happy people through food
Yes, food hubs can make people happy, and it's not just the people shopping for organics at Whole Foods because they feel good about the fresh cilantro they got for their homemade salsa. Fresh and local food is ripened on the vine/tree/in the ground instead of being picked ahead of time, and it has a shorter time from the farm to your table. This means more nutrients from fresher and more ripe produce.
Okay, so what does a food hub do?
The USDA categorizes food hubs as accomplishing one or more of 5 sets of tasks:
- First mile aggregation
- Last Mile Distribution
- Retail or Diversified Markets
- Processing for Convenience
- Processing for Preservation
These all together include the world between the farmer or producer and the shelf at the store, market, or in your pantry. They help move, process, prepare, package and certify that food is ready for sale and consumption. Some food hubs come in the form of a CSA (community supported agriculture) or coop where members support the production of fresh and local foods. Others are more business focused, interacting with farmers who don't produce enough to interact with commercial distribution networks.
Most food hubs fall in to one of two categories, or a hybrid of the two: direct to consumer or wholesale. Depending on the setting and existing food production and distribution, the needs of a community can vary. We looked at this information and tried to choose which would be the best for Las Vegas, an oasis within a desert.
Which will be best for Las Vegas
The food shed surrounding Las Vegas features a variety of growers, all of whom are contributing to the southern Utah and northern Arizona markets, but there is opportunity for growth in number of farms and what is being grown. The city it seld has a variety of growers and an extensive network of schools with gardens geared towards food production. This sets the precedent for a a food hub that can handle processing for the growers that don't have the facilities. The city has a series of farmers markets all over the metropolitan area but fresh food isn't always available, and many are filled with crafts and other wares.
The reason why this is the topic for our studio is becoming clear, we are in need of a food revolution...
Photo Credit and Caption: Vegitables at a farmers market, by Sean Wittmeyer
Cite this page:
Wittmeyer, S. (2020, 18 June). A food hub for Las Vegas. Retrieved from https://seanwittmeyer.com/definition/vegasfoodhub
A food hub for Las Vegas was updated June 18th, 2020.