If you read about your city you may have heard the term “food wasteland” but if you don’t know you may not have heard a definition.
If you live in one, you probably know without a textbook description.
In the simplest sense, this means that it is difficult for you to get to a supermarket. There might be a corner shop a few blocks away, but a grocery store that’ll meet all of your needs – especially when it comes to fresh produce and other healthy foods – is a hike.
The US Department of Agriculture has this to say about this:
“While there are many ways to define a food desert, the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) working group views a food desert as a low-income census area in which a significant number or a significant proportion of the population has little or no access to a supermarket or large grocery store.”
Low access is defined as “more than 1 mile from a supermarket or large grocery store in urban areas ”or“ more than 10 miles from a supermarket or large grocery store in rural areas ”. This distance is calculated by measuring from the center of a A square kilometer grid (confusing, I know) of population estimates for the nearest supermarket or large grocery store.
In Denver County, the map of the census data of all low-access incomes looks like this:
As the map shows, north Denver has a concentration of food deserts. These census areas include the neighborhoods of Globeville, Elyria-Swansea, Skyland, Clayton, and Northeast Park Hill.
The smaller cluster on the west side includes Sun Valley and parts of West Colfax and Villa Park.
Few higher-income areas – like Baker and a small section of Hampden next to Cherry Creek Country Club – have poor access, according to this data.
Earlier this year, Globeville and Elyria-Swansea were eligible for city grants and loan funds as part of the Healthy Food Challenge from the Denver Office of Economic Development.
The program awards grants of up to $ 250,000 for projects related to healthy food education, fresh food retailing, or food-related micro-businesses, and includes $ 1 million in low-interest loans to incentivize grocery retailers to open stores to offer in underserved areas.
In July, the Denver Post reported that the nonprofit Focus Points Family Resource Center and Right to Live Well received $ 76,720 for a support center for entrepreneurs who build and operate local food micro-businesses. In Elyria-Swansea, the nonprofit GrowHaus received $ 66,213 to hire two neighborhood workers and a program director. (The Post-Story swapped those numbers, according to GrowHaus.)
Coby Gould, Executive Director of GrowHaus, was reached by phone on Wednesday and said they had just received the executed contract to move the grant forward today, but they have worked until that point on the assumption that this would happen.
You hired a program manager a few months ago and are working on finding and hiring the two community outreach positions.
“The immediate goal is for residents to go to other residents’ homes and provide home training on healthy cooking and shopping on a budget, and also connect them to other health resources, ”Gould said. “The hope is to really build a network, to build trust – that’s why we have the residents doing the training – and then to build a network to build resilience in the community to allow other forces to emerge leading to or causing displacement Can lead to deportations. The residents have a network that they can access. “
Growhaus has mainly served Globeville and Elyria-Swansea since 2010, with some contacts in other parts of the city in the north of Denver. Its mission is to provide access to food through education, food production, food distribution and the creation of economic opportunities through vocational training. GrowHaus has more than 100 people shopping in its market and more than 60 families per week in the grocery distribution program. The educational classes looked after more than 2,500 students this year.
The Healthy Food Challenge was a start.
Blake Angelo, manager of food systems development for the city’s economic development bureau, says the Healthy Food Challenge was serving as a pilot program and that the city is still collecting preliminary data to move forward in other communities – Westwood, for example – the have said that access to healthy food is a top priority.
Part of this is encouraging supermarkets to open stores in these areas that take more forms than city loans.
A report co-authored by Angelo released earlier this year said that 49 percent of Denver’s low-to-middle-income neighborhoods are missing
convenient access to grocery stores. It also states that “high income and education are among the demographic indicators that grocery retailers prefer, which does not always coincide with underserved areas.”
“We work with everything from large chains to smaller family-owned chains to highlight certain packages. We partner with other funding partners like the Colorado Fresh Food Financing Fund, which has millions of dollars in incentives for healthy food in low food access neighborhoods. “
Gould says that while supermarkets don’t hurt, they’re not always the answer.
Globeville and Elyria-Swansea have some sparse pockets and are separated by a highway.
There is also a cultural and economic problem, he said. People may not always be able to afford the prices at some large stores or they may not be able to shop for whole foods. That’s why GrowHaus focuses on smaller markets and other resources.
The city is also taking a similar small-scale approach. The Healthy Corner Stores Initiative, run by the Department of Environmental Health, encourages existing corner stores to sell fresh and healthy food. There are 23 participating stores, according to their website, and they plan to enroll 50 by the end of 2017.
On the most local basis there are the Denver Community Gardens.
Denver Urban Gardens began in 1985 with three gardens in the Highland neighborhood – remember it was a whole different place back then – and has since grown to 157 community gardens on Metro Denver. More than 610 tons of fresh produce are produced annually in the gardens with the help of more than 8,000 volunteers.
And while these gardens serve areas of all income levels, DUG has programs specifically designed to help people with little access to fresh produce.
For example, the Fresh Seed and Transplant Program serves more than 8,500 residents in need. Qualified applicants will receive up to seven packets of seeds and four two-packs of grafts.
Rebecca Andruska, development and communications director at DUG, said that as community gardens have become much more common since 1985, they prioritize low-income neighborhoods and desert areas.
“About 80 percent of our gardens are in low- or middle-income neighborhoods, and in general, people in those neighborhoods come up to us and say this is something they want,” said Andruska. “They are the ones who realize that lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables is a problem in their community.”
Forty-six of the DUG gardens are located in schools where gardening and nutrition are integrated into the standard curriculum, and food is sometimes served in the cafeteria or at youth farmers’ markets.
Andruska says Seventy percent of children in these programs start eating more fruits and vegetables, and at least 50 percent of parents say their entire family is eating more fruits and vegetables.
Education is also a priority in the gardens outside the schoolyards. DUG offers community training programs in healthy cooking and gardening, and gardening leaders help participants with hands-on learning.
“C.Community gardens are really wonderful places and it’s definitely about food access, but there are so many other benefits
You can find the community gardens here:
Blue pins = community gardens with openings for the season
Yellow pins = community gardens that are full for the season
Red pins = community gardens that are not open to the public
Visit the DUG website to learn how to volunteer or donate to a garden.