The idea of the No Cost Grocery Program came about when Denver Food Rescue noticed gaps in the city’s food redistribution system. Mapping and data research found that typical food pantries and meal services served a narrow constituency contained to specific city blocks not located in communities across the Denver Metro area where they are needed most.
In addition to pantry location, barriers such as stigma, public transportation, ID requirements, language and cultural differences, and below par foods were identified as reasons for residents not utilizing traditional pantries.
Also, most full service grocery stores are not located in low-income neighborhoods (food deserts). Conversely these areas are highly populated with fast food and convenience stores (food swamps).
The DFR No Cost Grocery Program model exists to address these barriers and increase access to healthful foods with the partnership of residents, existing organizations, and schools in these overlooked neighborhoods. DFR strives to work with communities that desire foods that not only fill stomachs but nourish bodies and minds.
Diet related diseases (appearing disproportionally in low-income communities) can be avoided by increased consumption of fresh produce. When establishing a NCGP community, it is vital that each neighborhood is in charge of their grocery program and is held at a organization that is made up of and has trust from the community members. One community leader from each neighborhood with an NCGP is asked to join the Denver Food Rescue Board of Directors (we have a non fundraising board!). This ensures that DFR is doing only the work for the community that is desired by the community! (please note our values – integration of feedback is key). Once established a No Cost Grocery Program has the option of creating additional programming such as cooking and nutrition classes as a further resource for a healthy eating lifestyle.
In 2014, Denver Food Rescue established three No Cost Grocery programs in Globeville, Elyria-Swansea, and Park Hill.
In 2019, we have grown to 17 No Cost Grocery Programs! Learn more about each community here. A typical grocery program serves about 50 families every week, sending each one home with about a week’s worth of mainly fresh produce.