A new community-driven healthy food initiative is beginning to take off with our Boulder culinary school‘s southern neighbors. The Westwood Food Cooperative in West Denver won’t officially be open until 2016, but residents are already buying memberships for the program to ensure they will have access to fresh produce and other healthful food once the co-op is up and running. The neighborhood is currently designated as a food desert, and the program will serve as the first full-service grocery store in the area.
Beyond providing area residents with much needed nutritional resources, the Westwood Food Cooperative will also provide professional skills for members, as the store will be owned and operated by those who belong to the co-op.
“The cooperative model allows you to buy a membership. You have ownership rights, you’re able to now vote on key decisions like electing a board of directors or what products to stock,” said Eric Kornacki, executive director of Re:Vision, the nonprofit organization behind the cooperative effort.
Membership to the Westwood co-op costs $40 a year or $200 for a lifetime. At the end of every year, any profits the store has accumulated will be divided up and returned to the members. According to Kornacki, local farmers and neighborhood gardening projects will be able to sell surplus produce to the Westwood store as the project puts an emphasis on buying local products whenever possible. In the winter when quality food isn’t available locally or there isn’t enough to go around, the co-op will buy produce from another supplier.
Getting a community exciting about healthy food
Re:Vision has purchased a 2-acre property in West Denver that includes an empty warehouse. Members of the community have been cleaning and remodeling the property over the last nine months in preparation for the transformation from abandoned lot to neighborhood grocery store.
Along with the grocery store, the site will be home to a greenhouse, a full kitchen to create prepared foods for the grocery store, and office space for the co-op’s administrative needs. Co-op members are also working to create a public plaza that will play host to small markets and music festivals, and Colorado cooking classes intended to provide a community destination for residents of the area.
Officials with Re:Vision hope to open the Westwood Food Cooperative in the first quarter of 2016, but the timeline will depend on how successful fundraiser efforts are. Organizers will be launching a Kickstarter campaign in September to raise awareness and donations for the project.