Since 2007, Re:Vision has been concerned with food insecurity in Denver's Westwood neighborhood; the organization was founded to create a network of family gardens to make up for a lack of fresh produce available in this section of southwest Denver, where grocery stores are few and far between. But the sudden economic downturn caused by the current coronavirus pandemic has made the needs of the community much more urgent.
"Our core program is really focused on long-term food access and helping families learn how to grow their own gardens," says Re:Vision executive director JoAnna Cintrón. "But we knew we had to leverage our connections to address immediate food needs."
With the help of several chefs who operate out of or near Re:Vision's headquarters at 3800 Morrison Road, the organization is cranking out 250 meals a day, 100 of which are delivered to a nearby assisted-living facility in the Barnum neighborhood, with the rest handed out on a first-come, first-served basis starting at noon Monday through Friday.
The new program is being funded in part with grant money from the Colorado Health Foundation, Blueprint to End Hunger and the Healthy Food for Denver's Kids initiative, while the cooking is being done by Jose Avila of X'tabai Yucateco, Edwin Sandoval of Xatrucho and Damaris Ronkanen of Cultura Craft Chocolate (all of which operate from retail and kitchen space at Re:Vision), as well as Andrea Murdoch of Four Directions Catering and Noe Bermudez, chef/owner of Kahlo's and Tarasco's. Cintrón says that an additional $2,500 has also come from individual donations.
Re:Vision is using its promotoras, community mentors who normally share gardening expertise with neighbors, to get the word out about the free lunches; they're providing the organization with names of individuals who may be at high risk of food insecurity. Re:Vision has also set up a no-cost grocery giveaway every Wednesday from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Westwood Co-op. Cintrón explains that the free lunches are intended for people with the most immediate need for food (and who may not be able to cook for themselves), while the grocery program, which includes a forty- to sixty-pound box of produce and staples, is intended for families who are self-sufficient but may need a boost because of recent unemployment or lack of income during the stay-at-home order. About 100 to 150 families each week have been given groceries thanks to food donations from local groups.
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The director notes that Re:Vision has budgeted these food programs for an eight-week period that coincides with Mayor Michael Hancock's restaurant shutdown order, which runs through May 11, primarily because so many Westwood residents are part of the service industry, which has been hit especially hard during the crisis.
Even the businesses operating out of Re:Vision's space have been impacted. Sandoval and Avila have come up with creative ways to sell food while their catering and food-truck services have been restricted. Xatrucho is currently making meal kits for two people for $25 every Thursday through Saturday, while X'tabai has been doing breakfast burritos, meal kits and discounts for nurses (check social media to get the latest times and offerings for both). And Cultura is still selling chocolate online at culturachocolate.com, while the shop is running on limited hours for curbside pick-up.
"I'm constantly impressed by our partners and our teams," Cintrón concludes. "Cultura, Xatrucho and X'tabai took a gamble on our location, and it's amazing that they've continued contributing to the community."