Eliza Warren-Shriner has taken her interest in food and environmental issues and turned it into an honors project. She is researching food hubs, a relatively new development in local food supply chains. Food hubs serve as centers for food aggregation, distribution, processing and storage, and can help farmers and food producers expand their markets and share expenses.
In particular, Warren-Shriner, who is from Vermont, is zeroing in on the food hubs scattered throughout Vermont and Maine — her two “home-states” — to study their differences. The most obvious distinction is the number of hubs in each state–Vermont has about six, while Maine has just three. “In Vermont there’s a lot of state support for food hubs,” Warren-Shriner explained, which can translate into more government funding for hub start-ups. “In Maine, there’s a lack of political support, and efforts have been initiated independently.”
Warren-Shriner said she’s found that no two food hubs are the same, and her thesis explores the idea that no one model can fit all communities. “Due to the locally based nature of food hubs they have to be tailored to the region to meet the needs of the producers and buyers in the region,” she said.
As an environmental studies and Romance language major, and chemistry minor, Warren-Shriner said she is interested in alternative food systems, particularly ones that emphasize safe, local food. “Food hubs are an emerging concept that people are excited about in local food circles,” she said. “Many have commented that the food movement could have greater staying power than the environmental movement. Everyone eats food; it’s something that people can get excited about. Producing better, fresher food also has positive environmental implications.”
Warren-Shriner said many people she’s interviewed have asked to see her thesis when it’s complete. “Other studies haven’t evaluated food hubs on a more regional basis,” she said, and coordination among states on food hubs is just starting to emerge. Her report could help educate food hub proponents in Maine and Vermont about what is happening beyond their borders. “It could be a really interesting addition to what’s out there,” she said.
Read more about other students’ community-based honors projects and independent studies at Bowdoin.