The Alliance Center is proud to partner with organizations like Re:Vision to create a better future for all. As we prepare to break ground on our own sustainable urban garden next month, we are thrilled to share Re:Vision’s story of the incredible, life-changing impact urban gardens can have on communities.
At Re:Vision we believe access to healthy food is a right, not a privilege. Whether through teaching families to grow their own food with our Re:Farm program, or beginning to plant the seeds of community-owned wealth at the Westwood Food Co-Op with Re:Own, our purpose is to create a thriving, resilient community. We achieve that using a three main strategies; we cultivate community food systems (Re:Farm), develop local leaders with our Promotoras (Re:Unite), and grow community wealth by creating a locally owned economy (Re:Own). We believe by providing residents with tools, training, and inspiration, the community will come together to solve some of their most pressing issues.
In 2009, Re:Vision started working in the Westwood neighborhood of southwest Denver. Westwood is bordered by Federal to the east, Sheridan to the west, Alameda to the north and Jewell to the south. You might know the area for its amazing taquerias and Vietnamese food. What you might not know, is Westwood faces significant health and economic disparities because of decades of underinvestment and inadequate resources; 37% childhood obesity rate (compared to the state average of 27%), and while Westwood has the most residents under the age of 18, it also has the fewest open spaces and parks in Denver. The average household income is less than half the Denver average, and less than 4% of the population has a college degree. There are no supermarkets, schools are overcrowded, and it is dangerous for youth to walk through the neighborhood. Yet, despite decades of neglect, Westwood is one of Denver’s most vibrant and diverse neighborhoods, where 84% of residents are Latino, and approximately 60% of whom are first generation immigrants.
So, with all of these alarming statistics, why focus on food access and sustainability? Because that’s what the community wanted. When we spoke with residents, they mentioned a desire to be able to grow their own food as not only a means to save money on their grocery bills and improve access to and consumption of healthy foods, but also as a way to reconnect with the land. Many of our community members have agricultural backgrounds, and had to give those up in Denver’s more urban setting. They also gave up traditional ways of cooking because fresh produce, like chiles, and various herbs needed to cook certain dishes weren’t accessible, due to their price or actual availability. When budgets are limited, often times families are forced to make a choice between purchasing foods that will go a long way (think processed and shelf-stable foods) and produce. With the Re:Farm program, families don’t have to make that choice. Their gardens yield enough produce to feed the family and often times their neighbors as well. And if they have excess produce, they can take a variety of classes at our educational kitchen, La Cocina, to learn new culturally relevant farm-to-table recipes, or how to can and preserve so they can enjoy their produce year round. Families who participate in the Re:Farm program report continuing to eat more fruits and vegetables even in the off season.
What began with teaching seven families how to grow food in their own backyards, is now a thriving program changing food access in one community. To date, Re:Vision’s Re:Farm program has helped families throughout southwest Denver establish 1,765 annual gardens, collectively producing more than 500,000 pounds of fresh produce and saving those families over $1 million in grocery bills. In this current 2018 season, we have just over 260 families participating in the Re:Farm program.
Written by JoAnna Cintron, Re:Vision Director of Communications and Individual Giving