My design studio this semester is focused on developing a comprehensive design proposal for a food hub in Las Vegas. After extensive research, we developed a conceptual design for an integrated food hub and wellness center. Last week we travelled to Las Vegas to present our concept to several local designers and stakeholders. After our presentation, one of the reviewers asked a fundamental question that we had taken for granted: "why build a food hub?"
This was a good question and the answer is critical to understanding this project. In a nutshell, food hubs help make communities healthier by expanding their local food system.
Food hubs not only bring fresh fruits and vegetables into communities, but they also substantially improve the nutritional quality of those foods. Fresh produce begins to lose nutrient value soon after harvest. Vegetables can lose 15 to 55 percent of vitamin C within a week. Producing food locally dramatically reduces the amount of time fruits and vegetables spend in transit.
In addition, local food systems lower a community's overall ecological impact. Food shipped over long distances has an exponentially higher embodied energy and associated carbon footprint than food produced locally.
Last, there is a direct economic benefit for communities to produce food locally. Each dollar spent within a community recirculates through the local economy, creating an economic multiplier that lifts the economy as a whole. When resources are purchased from distant suppliers, wealth is drained from the community and this economic multiplier disappears.
For these reasons, it is in every community's best interest to develop and grow a robust local food system. For cities such as Las Vegas, which face many environmental and economic challenges, a food hub is one of the most effective strategies for achieving long-term community health.