Opal J. Smith Balch Springs Food Pantry
Rebecca Soja, Assoc. AIA; Michelle Edwards; Daniel Inocente, Assoc. AIA; Greg Luongo, AIA
The Opal J. Smith Balch Springs Food Pantry seeks to support and empower the community through food security.
Hunger is a pervasive, yet sensitive social issue affecting nearly a million households in the thirteen counties served by the North Texas Food Bank (NTFB). The project broadens the reach of the NTFB network and lends a heightened sense of belonging and normalcy to those experiencing food insecurity. Introducing a replicable "client choice" food pantry (emulating the grocery store experience) and additional public programs like a demonstration kitchen and community garden, the NTFB provides a unique market experience and educational resources while encouraging participation in a healthier, more resilient community. The roof, inspired by the vernacular of large farming sheds, is one big design move exemplifying beauty and performance. The striking profile and sloping surfaces provide shade and shelter while hosting solar panels to power lighting fixtures, harvesting rainwater for site irrigation, and integrating clerestories for thermal comfort and columns along the southern edge to draw visitors to the site. The entry court connecting the structures of Phases 1 and 2 activates public outdoor space and leverages the funneling/buffering of breezes for passive ventilation/cooling. Surplus energy can be stored for future use or sold back to the grid. The return on investment in these technologies is important for an organization relying heavily on donations. Additionally, produce grown on-site can be donated to the pantry or sold at farmer's markets for extra revenue.
The vision was to create a design that is familiar and approachable through a recognizable yet re-imagined vernacular style. Unique elements enhance a building type that would stereo-typically be perceived as utilitarian, resulting in a community hub where dignity and empowerment are the driving forces behind combating hunger and its associated social stigmas, so that everyone has a seat at the table.