Las Vegas Food Hub: First impressions from community leaders

Under a sunny morning sky on March 4, the students of Iowa State’s College of Design Las Vegas Food Hub studio were fortunate to have met with community leaders who are directly involved with or have affiliations to healthy food initiatives in Las Vegas. This informal session occurred at the Downtown and 3rd Farmers’ Market and was intended to get us acquainted with each other as well as have the five student teams present some of our initial research and ideas for feedback, critiques, and overall impressions.

Aurora Buffington was the first person to speak with us at the farmers’ market.  She discussed that as a Registered Dietitian/Health Educator at Southern Nevada Health district, her primary interests in implementing a food hub in Las Vegas are related to health and wellness. She touched on how she was involved in the formation of the Southern Nevada Food Council in 2011 whose primary objective is to provide equal access to healthy food for all Southern Nevadans through education and policy. She also discussed the correlations between healthy food and healthcare as well as some of the initiatives currently happening in the local school system (i.e. individual school gardens). My particular group, who’s focus is on wellness found her to be a particularly insightful person to speak with but, due to time constraints, we made plans to speak with her at a later date.

Kerry Clasby was the next leader to whom we were introduced too. As the manager of the Downtown and 3rd Farmers’Market we were attending, she opened the discussion by giving her perspective on food accessibility and the importance of eating a variety of healthy and organic foods. When we briefly sat down to speak with her as an individual group, we introduced the information we found in regards to the current food shed that Las Vegas has access too, our initial ideas about wellness, and our potential site location. Her feedback was primarily centered around the feasibility of our business plan and who we could get as potential investors. These were both areas we had given some pertinence too, however; had not fully fleshed out. She warned of the pitfalls of how the wrong business plan could lead to debt and or foreclosure but, still encouraged us to push forward.

Rick Passo was the next individual we spoke with that morning. He is the Co-Founder of Food Hub Las Vegas, a separate initiative which uses grassroots initiatives to gain momentum and address issues related to food security, access, and health. Since he is also trying to initiate a food hub, he was able to speak at length about the movements and potential contacts we could speak with as we go continue our designs. He was inspiring because he was very invested and passionate about the cause despite who was responsible for implementing it. In addition to being involved with the startup of a food hub, he has also been involved with helping to plan Nevada statewide Green School Summit as well as urban agriculture.

Walt Michaels was the last individual that we spoke to at length. As an engineer, educator, and Managing Director at Charge-N-Go, LLC he was primarily interested in the mechanics of how our growing systems would work. He analyzed our current system and pointed out lighting issues we may encounter. He also stressed the importance of gaining business contacts to invest in our idea as well as shared some ideas how to do so from his own personal experiences.

All four had both big personalities and the brains to boot. In retrospect, I am glad we took the time to meet with these folks as they really gave us a lot to think about for changes to our design and plan.

Here are some of our presentation boards and the notes that went along with them:

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