“Food deserts” are urban regions where there are large populations but little or no access to fresh food. The Elyria-Swansea and Globeville neighborhoods in Denver are perfect examples: 10,000 people with no full-service grocery store, in areas with some of the lowest incomes in the city.
Without access to fresh food, people living in food desserts are often forced to resort to fast food, convenience stores, and other low quality, overpriced options to feed themselves and their families. Even if they have a car and the time to drive elsewhere to get groceries, that is an additional expenditure of resources for some very basic necessities.
“How can we say that we have this amazing, healthy city, and boast our outdoors life, but we have these communities that doen’t have access to healthy food?” says Coby Gould, executive director and co-founder of The GrowHaus.
The GrowHaus is a nonprofit that created Mercado de al Lado, a market run by The GrowHaus, an indoor farm that focuses on producing and distributing food to people in the area, as well as educating them on nutrition.
“Healthy food access in and of itself is not going to deliver the results that we intend. There has to be an educational process to healthy food access initiatives,” says Paul Washington, executive director of the Denver Office of Economic Development. That organization partners with The GrowHaus.
The GrowHaus has been operating since 2009, with the intention of not only feeding people but helping them learn about good food choices, and hoping to replace staff with locals who can keep the process going.
The market serves over 100 families each week, while The GrowHaus sells about 100 boxes of organic, locally sourced produce, and gives away another 50 such boxes to families in need.
Organizations like The GrowHaus are approaching problems that often go unnoticed. Urban and suburban centers can mask a great deal of income disparity and health issues. Just because Denver is doing well overall, doesn’t mean that everyone in that city has the same resources, and that’s where organizations like The GrowHaus help.