Food “deserts” or areas of high food insecurity exist in all of Colorado’s communities and cause residents to be at higher risks for poor health outcomes and chronic diseases. Starting in October 2014, the Denver Department of Environmental Health (DEH) partnered with a nationally-known food access nonprofit organization, The Food Trust, to launch the Denver Healthy Corner Store Initiative (DHCSI) in an effort to expand access to healthy, fresh food to improve health outcomes and quality of life for all residents.
Based on the success of the Philadelphia Healthy Corner Store Initiative, the DHSCI helps store owners to expand the selection of healthy food in corner stores, convenience stores, bodegas, and neighborhood grocery stores to encourage youth and adults to purchase and eat healthier foods. The development model is designed to partner with store operators, community groups, distributors, the school health teams and other stakeholders to build demand and ensure responsiveness to the needs and desires of the surrounding neighborhoods. An advisory committee of stakeholders also serves to guide program and policy decisions. In year one, five pilot corner stores will help staff to discern barriers to implementation, distribution issues, affordability, community response and best practices. During years two and three, the program will expand to 50 stores and will include a school/corner store pilot in which the nutrition program in the school is connected to a nearby store that is implementing healthy food changes.
The DHSCI aims to serve as a replicable model for communities, both urban and rural, across the state and is funded by the Colorado Health Foundation. The long-term sustainability of the program lies in its alignment with the national vision for transforming the food system – from producers to distributors to retailers – to become more sustainable and to change the current course of poor health outcomes for Americans. The DEH seeks to be at the forefront of this movement as it becomes a national best practice through continued proven effectiveness of this model, policy change, and greater local and federal funding. It is hoped that model policies established to promote expanded healthy food access during this program will continue to shape the Colorado food environment for years to come.
The DHSCI was featured in a recent Denver Post article.