Decatur Fresh Market Combats Food Insecurity in Denver’s Sun Valley Neighborhood

On November 30, Decatur Fresh Market hosted their grand opening in Denver’s Sun Valley neighborhood. Prior to its opening, Sun Valley earned the classification of a food desert, since the nearest grocery store was 2.5 miles away. 

Sun Valley is Denver’s most diverse neighborhood. Its residents represent over 30 diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. In fact, the majority of food deserts nationwide represent BIPOC communities. A few years ago, Denver Housing Authority and Youth Employment Academy rolled out the blueprints and construction timeline for Decatur Fresh Market. The market’s construction is part of a larger community development project. Under the direction of Denver Housing Authority, Sun Valley will soon have 960 subsidized housing units.

Food insecurity remains a substantial burden for many Denver residents. Decatur Market serves as a model for development in other neighborhoods.

A Look Inside: Decatur Fresh Market

Sun Valley, Keo Frazier, Denver Sustainability, Ellie Sullum, Denver Housing Authority
Photo courtesy of Denver Housing Authority

Decatur Fresh Market is a 1,800 square-foot grocery store and community space. Before its opening, the nearest store was a 7-Eleven located on Federal Boulevard. The nearest supermarket, a King Soopers, is 2.5 miles away. Years ago, Sun Valley had a Family Dollar, but after it closed, no market replaced it. Decatur Fresh Market comes as a welcome solution to a long-standing community need.

Food deserts often leave community members without access to affordable healthy food. As such, rates of diabetes are higher in food deserts. Thus, one of Denver Housing Authority’s main focuses is to provide a range of affordable healthy options for Sun Valley residents. The market includes fresh produce, locally grown foods and a vibrant range of grocery inventory. Also included is a bakery, coffee bar and grab-and-go lunch specials on a rotating menu.

Denver’s Youth Employment Academy offers a paid internship program through Decatur Fresh Market. Denver residents ages 14 to 24 have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and leadership training in food retail.

Last month, Decatur Fresh Market held their grand opening ceremony. Community members filled the space with excitement.

“The most exciting part was that there was prepared food using the items from the market for people to enjoy and try. Everyone was excited and thrilled to have a market right in their neighborhood that felt so much like home,” said Keo Frazier, Denver Housing Authority’s director of communications and public affairs.

READ: 4 Denver Food Nonprofits With Community-Oriented Approaches

Culturally Relevant Product Inventory

Keo Frazier, Denver Housing Authority, Youth Employment Academy, Sun Valley, Ellie Sullum
Photo courtesy of Decatur Fresh Market
Another notable aspect of Decatur Fresh Market: culturally relevant, affordable foods and spices lining the shelves. Sun Valley residents can stock up on items like Basmati rice, paprika, Medjool dates, tahini and plantains without outrageous pricing.
Given the neighborhood’s vibrant diversity, Denver Housing Authority wanted this new space to be more than a generic grocery store that focuses on items found in large chain markets. They intended to meet the cultural needs of the community by stocking affordable foods and spices that are actually essential to Sun Valley community members. 
“Sun Valley is home to 2,000 residents who, until the opening of Decatur Fresh Market, didn’t have access to a grocery store within 2.5 miles. Our goal is for the market to become a cultural destination that celebrates and preserves Sun Valley’s diversity and unique fabric, and for the market to also serve as a shared community space,” said David Nisivoccia, executive director of Denver Housing Authority.

Spices and foods specific to Sun Valley residents are often stocked as “specialty items” in chain-grocery stores at a high price. Some residents can’t find items without driving across the city. Before the opening of Decatur Fresh Market, many Sun Valley residents had to drive to Aurora for essential spices, grains and produce relevant to their culture. Some simply went without for periods of time. The market’s approach to community-centric food stock already has strong neighborhood reception. The market features an international recipe collection from Sun Valley community members. 

“The current reaction has been extremely positive. [Denver Housing Authority] had staff and community members bring food from the cupboards to show us what we needed to stock. We drove to cultural-centric grocery stores in Colorado to determine what was best to offer in Decatur Fresh Market. We will continue to follow the lead of our community members, so we are ensuring we provide and stock the foods that the community wants and needs,” said Frazier.

A Model for Denver Neighborhoods

DDPHE, Sun Valley, Denver Sustainability, Ellie Sullum
Areas of limited food access in green. Photo courtesy of City and County of Denver
Unfortunately, Sun Valley isn’t the only neighborhood in need of a store like Decatur Fresh Market. In fact, over 20 areas in over 15 Denver neighborhoods meet the requirements for classification as a food desert. In 2018, Denver Public Health and Environment released their “Denver Food Action Plan”. The report details action plans to increase food security among Denver residents through 2030. 
Decatur Fresh Market serves as an integrated community solution that embraces food security, cultural celebration, professional development and small business. Youth Employment Academy has plans to develop a store in another food scarce neighborhood soon They intend to bring more community-oriented development to Denver. 
Decatur Fresh Market is located at 995 North Decatur St., Denver. You can learn by visiting their website.

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