News: Local

Posted on Feb 25, 2015

Spotlight on Fort Collins, Colorado: Increasing Healthy Food Access

By Gino Campana, Councilmember, District 3, City of Fort Collins, Colo.

Motivated by our community’s collective passion for health and sustainability, the City of Fort Collins, Colorado recently achieved five gold medals in Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties (LMCTC). An area that Fort Collins has invested a great deal of time and energy on since beginning our involvement in Let’s Move! is increasing access to healthy food for all residents.

By using city-owned and operated sites to grow food and provide nutrition education, the community comes together to address issues of healthy food access. The City’s Gardens on Spring Creek, a community botanic garden, is used to demonstrate sustainable horticultural practices, educate and inspire residents on gardening and nutrition, and provide cooking and nutrition classes at its outdoor kitchen. The Gardens have a special focus on food security as well. The Larimer County Food Bank uses donated harvest from the Garden to support the community each summer. As a key partner of the City of Fort Collins on LMCTC Goal III: Smart Servings for Students, the Food Bank also partners with Northside Aztlan Community Center to provide Kids Café in the afternoon, serving children in the city’s after school enrichment program. In the summertime, Kids Café becomes a breakfast and lunch program, and the Food Bank provides thousands of healthy meals at more than a dozen locations to feed and inspire underserved children.

Recently, we’ve installed community gardens in public parks. Operated through our City’s Parks and Recreation Department, gardens were strategically placed in underserved neighborhoods. Non-profits have also stepped in, offering gardens and free farmer’s markets in areas identified as food deserts. One such non-profit, Sproutin’ Up, grew and distributed more than 2,600 pounds of produce last year to 200 families in under-resourced neighborhoods. By engaging 25 youth garden apprentices from those neighborhoods, Sproutin’ Up has not only increased access to fresh, healthy produce but has created a higher level of buy-in and collaboration with the families they serve.

Through LMCTC Goal II: MyPlate, Your Place, as well as Goal IV: Model Food Service, the City places a priority on the health and nutrition of city employees through our award-winning Wellness Program, which has the vision of the City of Fort Collins being the healthiest workplace in America. Programs and services include fitness facilities accessible to city employees, lifestyle management programs, and reimbursable visits to a registered dietitian. The City of Fort Collins also displays MyPlate posters in city venues that serve or offer food.

The culmination of these healthy food access efforts has led to the launch of the Northern Colorado Local Food Cluster, an effort being supported by the City of Fort Collins Economic Health department. With partners such as Colorado State University and New Belgium Brewing, this newly formed economic cluster is focusing on supporting our local food businesses, addressing hunger, and, of course, nutrition for our all Fort Collins residents! The City’s success in this national initiative reflects the local value of collaboration and the good work being done by numerous community partners.