What’s Trending? Food Hubs!

Here at Food Works Group, we like to track the newest and most innovative food system trends so we can pass that knowledge on to our customers.  Recently, food hubs, like the Baltimore Food Hub, have caught our attention.

So what, exactly, is a food hub? A key feature of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, food hubs operate on the principle that farmers are stronger when they work together. Food hubs are networks that enable regional farmers to collaborate with one another on marketing and distribution.  These collaborative efforts allow farmers to focus on what they do best - growing great food!

The Baltimore Food Hub is one such food hub, whose efforts are particularly innovative and commendable.  The Food Hub is a campus of facilities, services, and programs designed to enhance Baltimore’s local food economy.  With support from a team of business partners, nonprofit organizations, and state and local government agencies, they seek to build a vibrant local food system that creates both employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for the community. The Food Hub occupies East Baltimore’s historic, but long neglected, Eastern Pumping Station, which served as a filming site for the popular television show, The Wire.  In occupying this space, the Food Hub has played a major role in revitalizing East Baltimore.  It not only brings local foods to the area, but also offers jobs and opportunities to community members.    

Each building on the Food Hub’s campus serves a unique purpose.  Flex 1 and Flex 2 are flexible spaces for food-related businesses; these buildings offer spaces for food manufacturing, preparation and storage, as well as administrative work.  The Coworking building serves as a venue for food entrepreneurs and businesses looking for office space.  Currently, the Maryland Farmers Market Association occupies this flexible workspace and utilizes it for opportunities to collaborate with other organizations.  The Kitchen Incubator, set to open next summer, will offer tenants state of the art kitchen equipment.  With the popularity of food trucks growing quickly, the Food Hub also offers a space for food truck storage and preparation in its Food Truck Parking and Commissary.  The final building on this extensive campus is for urban farming.  Here, growers can utilize a quarter-acre of hoop houses to grow food all year long.

We think the Baltimore Food Hub, and food hubs more generally, are at the forefront of innovation in the food system space.  Food hubs allow farmers to concentrate on growing the best food by ensuring that the food is marketed and distributed efficiently.  

Does your community have a food hub you think we should know about? Send us an email at info@foodworksgroup.com!  

Solving the Sugar Problem One Label at a Time

At FWG, we believe in transparency. While we love and promote tasty, nourishing food, we also think people have the right to choose something, well, junky, every now and then. But it should be absolutely clear what is in the product. Last month, the Food and Drug Administration proposed that the nutrition labels on packaged foods start listing the amount of added sugar they contain as a percent of the recommended daily intake.  

Take, for example, that favorite soda.  A 20-ounce bottle of coca-cola packs in about 65 grams of added sugar (sugar added to food during production and packaging).  Health experts recommend that added sugars constitute only 10 percent of our daily calories, meaning that the 65 grams of added sugar in your soda represents 130 percent of the recommended daily intake.  In other words, way more than you should be consuming! The new labels would seek to curb that unhealthy over-consumption.

Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University told The New York Times that this change would not only “affect the choices of the subset of people who read labels,” but also, “encourage food manufacturers to look harder for ways to cut down on added sugars in their products.”  These food manufacturers have already criticized the proposal, however, arguing that the move is not scientifically justified, would be very expensive, and would confuse consumers.

This proposal from the FDA comes in the wake of their announcement that food companies have three years to remove artificial trans fats from their products.  The announcement, which came in June, seeks to make food more healthful. The evidence is clear: Trans fats increase the risk of heart attacks and stroke, raise bad cholesterol, lower good cholesterol, and harm blood vessels.  There is no place for it in our food. This new requirement from the FDA is a step beyond their initial requirement of including trans fat content on food labels.

Food Works Group is dedicated to creating a smarter food system, and we believe that transparency in our food supply is a critical piece of that. FWG applauds the FDA for their efforts to further this goal.