Combine a powerful, supportive civic society with killer marketing chops and enlightened grassroots activism, and amazing things can happen. Case in point is the Westwood Food Co-op in Denver, Colorado, which just raised $50,000 in a successful Kickstarter campaign to fill its shelves full of wholesome, locally-grown food. With these funds, the co-op will become the city's first community-owned grocery store in a known food desert.
“Grocery stores won’t come to Westwood because the average household income level is low. They believe they can’t make a lot of money here, and already there is a trend with grocery stores closing near food deserts in Denver because they don’t make enough profit,” said Cat Jaffee, Director of Communications and Public Affairs at Re:Vision, a nonprofit organization that works with neighborhoods across Denver to “Re:Farm, Re:Unite, and Re:Own”.
Responsible for the crowd-funding campaign, the group held a high-profile dinner cooked by the Co-op’s local chefs and blessed by local Aztec performers known as Grupo Tlaloc Danza Ateca, along with many of Denver’s movers and shakers. The dinner was held at the site of the future market – buckets poised to collect any water from its leaky roof and all.
(For the record, the author of this report worked as a volunteer server at said opening event. The food was delicious, the atmosphere electric, and the community support a beacon of hope in a complicated world.)
“Being a food desert is a major struggle for Westwood,” Jaffee continued in an email exchange with Inhabitat. “The impacts include limited access to healthy, fresh affordable food, resulting in high obesity rates, depression, and higher risks for diabetes.”
“The Food Co-op will address this by bringing jobs, industry, ownership, and revenue into the hands of the community and keeping it within the community. There will be better access to affordable healthy food, more community ownership, and a grocery store that people can walk to, instead of having to own a car and drive outside of the neighborhood.”
On 11 October, just 12 days before the group announced they had reached their Kickstarter goal, Jaffee said the group had raised only raised 50 percent of their goal. On 20 October, they reported raising an additional $600 during a Zumbathon at the warehouse. And then, a new Kickstarter update on 23 October from Jaffee:
“We did it! 720 hours… 503 backers… $55,576 pledge dollars… And one incredible community driven cooperative grocery store in the making.”
Images by Re:Vision and ART of HER