Denver nonprofit helps families grow produce in Westwood neighborhood

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Posted at 11:32 PM, Sep 29, 2021

Denver — A Denver nonprofit is helping residents in the Westwood neighborhood grow their own produce to provide the community with thousands of pounds of fresh food.

Re:Vision, a nonprofit, is helping tackle hunger by increasing food access in low-income communities with a Backyard Garden Program.

“The reason it’s so important is because this neighborhood really lacks access to healthy food, and what it doesn’t lack is assets and the people power,” said JoAnna Cintron, the nonprofit executive director.

Community health workers, known as promotoras, go into neighborhoods and help families establish a backyard program. The volunteers also help increase education and access to community programs. The model used to connect families with resources using promotoras was adopted from Latin American countries.

Maiyra Olivas, a promotora, said it’s about more than just gardening. They teach families how to value the land, the food and the Latin culture.

There are 150 backyard gardens throughout the Westwood neighborhood. On average, each garden is about 400 square feet and yields 400 pounds of fresh produce a year. Each year, all the gardens in the southwest neighborhood produce more than 75,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables

Erika Rodalte has lived in the Westwood neighborhood for more than a decade. She joined the program few years back and started a small garden in her front yard. Her two boys grow tomatoes, which the family uses to make salsa or chopped tomatoes for a salad. Rodalte said the garden helps her boys not only understand where food comes from but also how to eat healthy.

David De Santiago, 56, is the manager of the urban farm for the nonprofit. He spends several hours a day planting or picking ripe peppers, garlic, tomatoes, eggplants, watermelons and more.

De Santiago was born in a small town near Zacatecas, Mexico, but he’s lived in the Westwood neighborhood for two decades. It's a place that feels like the small rural town he grew up in. He said he loves giving people handfuls of food when they stop by.

Promotoras are now recruiting families for the garden program in 2021.