In northeast Lakewood, the Two Creeks neighborhood is classified as a food desert because a substantial number of residents lack access to a large grocery store within a half mile of their homes. This area of Lakewood also has some of the lowest incomes in the city, with some census tracts showing a level of poverty as high as 21 percent of the residents. It’s the city’s highest minority neighborhood, and many Hispanic residents in northeast Lakewood speak Spanish as their first language.
When the City started a conversation with the neighborhood in 2013 about strategies for enhancing Two Creeks, the discussion was focused on a particular goal: finding ways for residents to safely and conveniently access the places and services they use daily within a 20 minute walk or bicycle ride and by using the Sheridan Station on the W light-rail line as a hub. This Sheridan Station 20-Minute Neighborhood Implementation Strategy was a planning effort funded by the HUD Sustainable Communities Initiative, and it included a native Spanish speaker to work with Spanish speakers in the neighborhood. This endeavor sparked participation from numerous Two Creeks residents including those who had never participated in such planning processes before, and the neighborhood residents quickly and easily identified key priorities: better access to fresh, healthy food, and the desire for a community gathering space.
The city partnered with a local non-profit, Sprout City Farms, to create an urban farm on a one-acre park in the heart of the Two Creeks neighborhood. The section of Mountair Park turned into the farm had previously been considered blighted, and crime-ridden. The city remade the park by removing an old basketball court for the farm and building a multi-sport court near the entrance to the park. The farm runs a donation-based farm stand that accepts and doubles Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. In addition to supplying fresh food, the farm helps fulfill the neighborhood’s desire for a community gathering place.
The farm also donates food to the local school’s food bank, and the partnership led to the creation of the Mountair Summer Camp. When summer construction at the elementary school meant that its long-standing summer activities and lunch programs would have to be relocated, the new farm stepped up. Out of this partnership came the
Mountair Summer Camp which provides fun, stimulating and educational activities to the kids in the morning as well as a free, healthy lunch.
For more information visit: http://www.lakewood.org/MountairPark/