Denver, Colorado


Excerpt from Lessons for Leaders:

Through a diverse array of assessment projects and deployment of 10 promotoras, Denver’s Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities partnership trained emerging resident leaders, built new networks of relationships, increased meeting attendance and participation, and unearthed new problem-solving methods. Efforts to support inclusive decision making and build relationships with agency partners secured powerful results in the city’s southwest neighborhoods, particularly in parks and urban agriculture. The partnership influenced timing, design and investment in plans, policies and capital projects.

For more information, read the full story.

November 2013

They live in a state known for its great outdoors. They breathe its Rocky Mountain air. But for the 55,000 residents of seven, low-income neighborhoods in southwest Denver, what matters is their own community environment. Residents and partners are working to remove the obstacles that make an active, healthy lifestyle difficult.

A rich immigrant history of Latino, Jewish, Italian and Vietnamese residents define the west-side community of Denver. Since 2003, Somali and Somali-Bantu refugees also call this home. The resilience and diversity of cultures that are found in these neighborhoods is a mosaic unlike anywhere else in Denver. Economic challenges and barriers due to language and culture are just a few hurdles that residents are overcoming to seek the freedom and opportunity offered by life in the United States. For these hardworking residents of humble means, each day starts with disadvantages, including limited access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables, safe parks and recreation facilities, and reliable, consistent transportation.

Together, it all adds up quickly—to an unhealthy environment. Overweight and obesity rates are far higher here than in Denver as a whole. Yet the Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities initiative, headed by Denver Public Health and powered by a strong community partnership, is on a mission to increase access to healthy food and places to be physically active in West Denver and the city as a whole by transforming policies and the environment. “There’s a lot of positive change underway, and communities should be primed to use the improvements they help create. All of our successes depend on and reflect strong community engagement and the very strong partnership we have built together, including the City Council members, various non-profits and community organizations, and residents,” says project director Jennifer Wieczorek.

Key accomplishments include:

  • Created and expanded a one-acre urban farm called Ubuntu Urban Farm in Westwood neighborhood as well as a backyard garden program that has helped families grow over 16,000 pounds of produce. They also raised money toward eventual development of a Westwood-based food hub, coop and market.
  • Opened a Mi Pueblo Latin Market Barnum and West Colfax neighborhoods.
  • Developed, in priority areas identified as food insecure, the Lakewood Dry Gulch community garden and the Valverde community garden.
  • Assisted the Denver Sustainable Food Policy Council (SFPC) with forming and advancing policy priorities to: 1) remove regulatory barriers in regards to zoning for sales of raw agriculture on residential property; 2) encourage institutional purchasing of local foods at the municipal level; 3) expand the acceptance of SNAP benefits at farmers markets; and 4) encourage broadening the range of traditional and alternative food retail outlets in target neighborhoods.
  • Supported resident design and construction of the new Four Winds park at 3800 West Alameda Avenue.
  • Accelerated and improved planning and construction of Weir Gulch, including the walk replacement from Alameda to Sheridan.
  • Implemented 25 miles of bike lanes, 8 miles of sharrows; Sloan’s Lake crosswalk and four-way stop on 17th and Perry, consistent with the Denver Moves plan for West Denver.
  • Included health and neighborhood stakeholder concerns in revitalization plans for five opportunity areas within the South Platte Corridor and in the final Decatur-Federal station area plan that can serve as a model for all Denver light rail stations.
  • Supported increased access to active transportation for public housing residents in partnership with Denver Bike Sharing and the Denver Bcycle.
  • Leveraged funding for the design of Knox Ct. bike boulevard, the City’s first bike boulevard.

As partners work toward a “health in all policies” approach in Denver, Jennifer is confident that they are having a lasting influence on the way business is done. “With the wide array of opportunities and potential partners in Denver, Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities has provided us with a great opportunity to strengthen the web of relationships, projects and policies that will continue to improve quality of life in West Denver over the long term.”

For more information, view a short film about their work.

Denver, Colorado