The Westwood Food Cooperative is not scheduled to open until 2016, but right now residents can buy memberships that will eventually give them access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The cooperative will be the neighborhood’s first full service grocery store, and it will be owned by the residents themselves.
A $1.2 million loan approved by the Denver Office of Economic Development will be used to bring a neighborhood grocery store to the Westwood area.
Local nonprofit Re:Vision obtained the loan in late September from the Denver OED to acquire a building at 3738 Morrison Road in the southwest Denver neighborhood to house a grocery store for the neighborhood.
A simple name change from Re:Vision International to Re:Vision reflects the commitment of cofounders Eric Kornacki and Joseph Teipel to cultivate a thriving community from the ground up. They are enthusiastically encouraging residents of this urban neighborhood southwest of downtown Denver to create their own economic opportunities by using their own hands.
Everyone has moments of clarity, where they understand something important about their lives. Barbara Frommell acted on hers.
She quit a perfectly good job as a Denver city planner in order to become development coordinator for Re:Vision International, a nonprofit working to improve access to healthy food in low income communities in Denver.
Westwood has a storied history on Denver's west side, with a diverse population and vibrant culture, along with plenty of challenges. The neighborhood was long an afterthought in the city's plans, but City Councilman Paul López has been fighting to change that, with visible -- and colorful -- results.
The road to transformation for one of Denver’s poorest neighborhoods began half a world away — in Nicaragua, where a 2006 service-learning project inspired two University of Denver students — economics major Eric Kornacki (BA ’09) and criminology major Joseph Teipel (BA ’07) — to fight poverty at home.
It was the beginning of a learning experience for the refugees of war-torn Somali who, though farmers by tradition, were not used to farming in a climate anything like Colorado's. Now they've harvested their first full season of crops, providing them to the Bantu, CSA (community-supported agriculture) members and a restaurant.
Eric Kornacki, Co-founder and Executive Director of Revision, highlights the organization’s past successes. Many of these successes are due to the promotora model, which helps Revision achieve its goal of creating of self-sufficient community food systems through resident empowerment. Kornacki also talks about Revision’s future plans using grants to further development in the community and empower its members.
This New York Times article discusses the Slow Money Gathering at the Boulder Theater in Colorado where 650 food entrepreneurs met with high net-worth investors. “We’re united in mission, in that we’re all trying to change the food system,” said Jeffrey Greenberg. Ultimately though, Revision was named entrepreneur of the year and received a $50,000 prize and this shout out in the New York Times.
After learning about Revision and its programs, professors Educational Psychology & Learning Sciences Professors Susan Jurow and Kevin O’Connor, with doctoral candidate Molly Shea, MBA, were inspired. Together, they created the Learning in the Food Movement project to study how people work together to create better futures for themselves and their communities.
As Eric says, “In Westwood there is a lack of access to food and most people are living below the poverty line and can’t afford to eat healthy.” About six years ago, 40 Somali Bantu families who were farmers in their native land came to this area. When they arrived in Denver, a place with an 120-day growing season, they realized they would not be able to grow food in the same way as in their homeland.
Revision International, a nonprofit organization that focuses on sustainability initiatives in low-income neighborhoods. “We’ve done surveys and community members have responded almost overwhelmingly that they don’t feel safe walking to a local retailer, both because of the built environment and also because of the perception of violence.”
Using urban gardening as a prevention strategy, the pilot project, Semillas de Esperanza, or “seeds of hope,” taught gardening skills to 12- to 17-year-olds who were at risk for joining a gang or were already in a gang.