Eating local produce, such as vegetables from a farmers market, has been a trend for years. But what does it truly mean to consumers and their communities?
Denver is known as a hot spot for local food. Restaurants in town boast their connections to Colorado produce. Farmers markets have popped up throughout the city. And, for folks who can afford to shop at a farmers market, the benefits are clear.
Produce Quality: Farmers Market vs. Grocery Store
The average grocery store fruit or vegetable travels a whopping 1,500 miles and is picked 13 days before it hits the shelf. A third of its nutrients are lost by the third day.
On the other hand, producer-only farmers market vegetables are harvested within the past 24 hours. They may travel just a few miles before being placed in your hands.
These nutrient-dense vegetables reduce a person’s carbon footprint and taste deliciously ripe.
However, many of Denver’s residents in lower-income neighborhoods can’t afford local produce.
How the Mental Health Center of Denver Increases Access
Dahlia Campus for Health & Well-Being and its Farms and Gardens partners work to bridge that gap.
At peak production, our one-acre farm and aquaponics greenhouse harvests over 80,000 pounds of produce and fish. Additional partners (Peoples Community Food Projects, Children’s Farms of America and Mo’Betta Green MarketPlace) distribute the vegetables. They also provide learning opportunities on fresh food topics.
We host a farmers market every Wednesday and accept SNAP. We’re also involved in Double Up Food Bucks – a program where all SNAP purchases are half off. This, plus tiered pricing, ensures everyone in the neighborhood can access the produce harvested just steps from where they’re buying it.
The Community Impact
Our local produce benefits consumers in more ways than giving them access to healthy food.
I have seen preschoolers touch the frilly tops of carrots and look amazed as the vegetables in the soil are picked.
I’ve listened to residents of the senior center across the street share their memories of days with their grandparents on a farm just this size – their faraway gaze shortening the distance to that very place.
Neighbors have thanked me for making the view on their morning walk so calm and beautiful.
So, maybe it is the campus experience that truly tells the story.