COLORADO SPRINGS –
The El Paso County’s Public Health District is in the process of conducting a food system assessment, keeping tabs on food production, consumption and location trends.
One of the significant preliminary findings is that there needs to be a greater number of healthy food options in our neighborhoods.
According to the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Access Research Atlas large portions of the county fall inside “food deserts”. A food desert is an area with limited access to fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole foods. Most of these areas are within low income neighborhoods.
One of the groups working to combat all this unhealthiness is the Colorado Springs Food Rescue.
“So the mission for Colorado Springs Food Rescue is to cultivate a healthier, more equitable food system in Colorado Springs and the Colorado Springs area,” commented Shane Lory, Director of Operations for the CSFR.
“So what that looks like is we do programs that foster healthy food access, healthy food education, and healthy food production,” stated Zach Chapman, CEO of the organization.
Everyday, due to partnerships with big business donors, school cafeterias, and other organizations, the CSFR is able to donate food to pantries across town, thus creating food access points.
One pantry, located at Atlas Preparatory School is also an education point. Manned by students who help to feed hungry folks and also learn about food needs in the city.
“We’re creating tomorrow’s next food advocates,” said Patience Kabwasa, Director of Programs at CSFR.
“I think I’ve really grown from this experience,” commented one Atlas Preparatory student. “I get to learn about my community and environment, and what’s going on inside it,” said another student.
CSFR estimates they take in and distribute around 30,000 pounds of food each month. However, going forward they don’t want their goal to be in pounds.
“We want to transcend that and go beyond that to attack the root problems as to why people are standing outside of food pantries in the first place,” said Shane.
Because this group believes that providing pantry access to healthy food products is not enough to solve the long term food problem many face in El Paso County.
“We also need to provide the conditions for education around that healthy food, around how it’s linked to healthy tradition and linked to healthy outcomes on the neighborhood and household level,” said Zach.
The CSFR has also been a part of the county food system assessment and is using the data in hopes of changing the food landscape. This brings us to the third goal CSFR is built around, creating healthy food production.
“Our plan is to create regional food production hubs,” finished Shane.
This year CSFR is conducting feasibility studies on urban farms. They hope to have a few running, in some capacity, in the next few years.