Gardens and greenhouses in urban settings are providing food and social support to neighbors.
Food insecurity is an all too real problem for many in our state, and it only got worse due to the recent pandemic. It stems from many issues: lack of money to afford food, food deserts where grocery stores simply don't exist, and even where things like convenience stores are an option, fresh foods aren't available or are too expensive to purchase.
Add to that school's closing due to COVID-19, cutting access to free meals for students who needed it (though many schools went above and beyond to try to get that food to their students and families), and we are in the midst of a crisis.
Fortunately, there are several individual and organization leaders who are cultivating new ways to both provide access to fresh food and access to the community, including Growhaus, Fresh Food Connect, and SummerHom Garden.
Growhaus, located in the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea area, is a nonprofit indoor farm, marketplace, and education center that focuses on creating a community-driven, neighborhood-based food system. The 20,000-square-foot greenhouse is an amazing place, growing produce, as well as serving as a testing ground for other agriculture like growing mushrooms and aquaculture.
Growhaus uses food as a lens to view a variety of social issues. It provides production, distribution, and education around food. The greenhouse hosts a variety of programs to connect the community, as well as offers outreach to the neighborhoods to give them a voice in where their food is coming from, as well as a safe place to gather.
It grows both its own food, as well as sources food from local producers to both provide food boxes and sell in its onsite marketing. Please learn more about the movement below.
You can help support Growhaus's cause in several ways. You can donate food boxes to those in need, you can both shop at the market in person and volunteer to help, and you can benefit from the amazing program through ordering a food box of your own! The food boxes are amazing, featuring a variety of locally grown produce (including that from the greenhouse), fresh eggs, tortillas, and more depending on the package you choose.
Please learn more about the Growhaus on its website. You can check out the food box program there, as well. It is serving thousands right now with emergency food distribution and could really use your help.
Fresh Food Connect
Fresh Food Connect (FCC), a collaboration between Denver Food Rescue, Denver Urban Gardens, and Groundwork Denver, is an innovative program that connects local growers (including backyard gardeners) with hunger-relief organizations in the area. The idea is to keep good, edible, and healthy food from going to waste when there are so many that could use it right now.
"In a nutshell, gardeners download the FFC mobile App to indicate that they have extra vegetables to donate. The FFC App will map out a route for youth employees to collect the vegetables using bikes and trailers. The produce will then be donated to neighbors who may not have funds or access to fresh produce," says the FCC Facebook page.
You can download the app for iPhone or Android and get started this season! There are so many people out there that are struggling with food insecurity, and you have no idea how much of a different your extra zucchini (and you will have a ton of it) can make, not to mention anything else you were able to grow.
For more information on FCC, please visit its website.
Washington Park has been really good at growing one thing in recent years: houses. But one homeowner, Lisa Negri, wanted something different: an oasis in the form of a garden.
In 2019, she decided to buy the property next door, and instead of using it as a real estate investment, she invested in her community. After tearing down the house, Negri sought information from a horticulturist friend, invested her own money in all the materials, and built an amazing urban oasis with the help of neighborhood volunteers.
Gardens aren't all about producing food—the sensory impact of spending time in natural settings has been proven to restore energy and attention, reduce psychological stress, enhance cognitive function, creativity and productivity, increase motivatio, and, improve mood states, to name just a few benefits. This garden is about breaking the cycle of development and creating beauty amidst the typical cityscape, as well as giving a place for pollinators to thrive. It gives people a mental break from the concrete and traffic, and has brought the neighborhood together. Area youth have volunteered in a variety of ways to build improvements for the garden, including the entrance and bee hotels.
Lisa was featured on a wonderful profile by 9News—check it out to see and learn more about the garden.
How do you feel about urban gardening? Do you have an urban garden success story? Please let us know in the comments.