Moving America Forward

Thriving Gardens Now Grow in a Denver Food Desert

March 17, 2014
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Thriving Gardens Now Grow in a Denver Food Desert
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Thanks to two young social entrepreneurs, low-income Colorado neighborhoods raise their own fruits and veggies.

After graduating from the University of Denver in 2007, pals Joseph Teipel and Eric Kornacki headed south, to Guatemala where they participated in a service project.

Inspired by the work they did there, the two returned home to help poor communities here in the United States. Their goal is a lofty one: They want to foster self-sufficient communities nationwide that grow their own healthy food. But for now, they’re starting small by making a difference in one city.

In 2009, Teipel and Kornacki formed  the non-profit, Re:Vision, and launched their first program, Re:Farm, to help low-income people living in a food desert in southwest Denver. Their first project included planting a school garden at Kepner Middle School, designing irrigated backyard gardens for seven families, teaching families how to grow their own food, and mentoring at-risk middle schoolers through gardening. In 2010, their work was rewarded with an $80,000 grant from the National Convergence Partnership to study how gardening can be used to prevent violence and implement programs. From there, they began hiring community promotoras to spread the word about healthy food and teach other people in their neighborhood how to garden.

Much like the gardens themselves, Re:Vision is growing. Last season, 200 families participated in the backyard garden program, producing 28,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables. A hundred families are on a waiting list for a garden, and the organization hopes to meet that demand this year, with the help of a $50,000 Slow Money Entrepreneur of the Year award and a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

They’re also launching a program called “Dig it Forward,” through which people who want to help can hire Re:Vision workers to design and plant gardens. The proceeds from these garden sales will pay for free gardens in low-income people’s yards. Taipel told Helen Hu of North Denver Tribune, “It’s a way of thinking outside the box. We have a lot of expertise, and if people want to start gardens and help others, it’s a win-win.”

Patricia Grado, an immigrant from Chihuahua, Mexico, serves as one of the promatoras, told Hu, “I’ve reaffirmed my understanding about how to grow our own food, about food sustainability, nutrition, and among other things, how to help the community with my knowledge.”

MORE: This Innovative Idea Brings Produce Directly to Low-Income Communities

 

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