Dozens of Latino families in a low-income Denver neighborhood are taking part this summer in a project to grow their own vegetables as a step toward economic independence and food security.

"We believe that every person has the right to wholesome nutrition and that no foods are more healthy for people and for the planet than local and organic ones," Eric Kornacki, executive director of Revision International Denver, tells Efe.

"Wholesome food bought in supermarkets is too expensive for many Americans. But now, 80 Hispanic families will learn to grow and eat fresh and healthy foods," he adds.

The Re:farm Denver initiative is focused on the Westwood neighborhood, where Hispanics make up 76 percent of the 15,000 residents.

A quarter of Westwood's Latinos live below the poverty line.

When Revision International, a non-profit, launched the program in 2009, only seven families took part, a number that grew to 38 last year and is set to double this year thanks to a $40,000 grant from the Colorado Health Foundation.

The initiative represents a "simple and profitable model that leads to economic self-sufficiency at the individual level and to food security at the collective level," according to Kornacki.
"As this program goes on growing, we believe we can break the cycle of poverty and diet-related illnesses in marginalized communities," he says.

Each participating family pledges to cultivate their own garden for at least two years and to assist two other families in joining the project.

For $30 a year, a household receives the resources and technical aid necessary to grow vegetables and prepare nutritious meals.

Kornacki describes Westwood as "a food desert," in other words, an area where people don't enjoy consistent access to fresh food at affordable prices.

Food deserts are typically marked by the absence of supermarkets and well-stocked groceries, leaving people who lack their own transportation dependent on convenience stores, bodegas and other small outlets.

Denver health authorities say the dearth of sources of healthy food is a big reason why 78 percent of Westwood residents are overweight, while a survey found that 63 percent of area households can't afford to buy healthier foods.

"Many residents of Westwood don't have access to healthy food. It's easier to buy a soda and junk food than to go buy milk and vegetables," says Denver City Councilman Paul López, who represents the neighborhood.

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