Whitmore Community Food Hub Complex: Building Community Around Food
The 34-acre Food Hub relocalizes food supply chains for an island system that imports 93 percent of its food from global supply chains. The complex integrates the aggregation, processing, and distribution of product from local growers with business incubation, cultural tourism, workforce housing, food business incubation, and edible landscapes.
More than 93 percent of Hawai‛i’s food is imported; alarming, since Hawai‛i is the remotest inhabited land mass on Earth. Hawai‛i’s landscape once fed a nation. Hawaiian grocers have a five-day supply of food sourced from global supply chains, meaning they are fifteen meals away from anarchy. The proposed Food Hub complex to serve O‛ahu farmers and communities re-localizes food supply chains, recalling the need to “think like an island” in building statewide resilience.
Community-based food hubs are emerging nationwide as anchors in aggregating, processing, and distributing product from local growers to wholesale consumers. Not a typical farmer’s market, food hubs incubate socio-economic resilience through creation of value-added food supply chains and a skilled workforce where neither existed. The Food Hub reconstitutes a “missing middle” shared urban agricultural infrastructure abandoned in the early 20th century due to the dominance of industrial farming.
Besides providing processing and distribution support for an underserved agricultural community, the Whitmore complex serves additional community needs in agricultural workforce housing, food business incubation, and cultural tourism. The challenge is to provide a great public place for Wahiawa residents and tourists, despite that 80 percent of the complex is devoted to logistical functions.
The cooperative nature of food hubs encourages integrated resource management among tenants. This involves the upcycling of tenant waste streams as inputs to feed another tenant’s production processes, akin to the “green” economies of integrated energy districts. The food hub eliminates the concept of waste, otherwise difficult when tenants are scattered in separate facilities. Food hubs’ aggregated economy of agricultural services and producers hold greater opportunity for implementing sustainable agricultural practices, otherwise untenable in a conventional market primarily focused on export commodity crops.