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Dec. 6, 2011
Media Contacts:
Suzanne Beranek
The Colorado Health Foundation
Meghan Hughes
City and County of Denver Environmental Health
April White
The Food Trust

Denver Food Access Task Force releases recommendations to reduce growing obesity epidemic, stimulate economic development

DENVER — The Denver Food Access Task Force released a report titled PDF Icon Transparent "Healthy Food for All: Encouraging Grocery Investment in Colorado" during today’s Denver City Council, Safety, Education & Service Committee meeting. The report outlines policy recommendations to improve access to affordable, healthy food and stimulate economic development in Denver and throughout Colorado.

A 2009 report from The Food Trust titled PDF Icon Transparent "The Need for More Supermarkets in Colorado" found that access to supermarkets stocked with healthy, affordable food is not evenly distributed in Denver and Colorado. Funded by the Colorado Health Foundation, the report also found that low-income communities are more likely to lack access to supermarkets and that these communities have a high incidence of obesity and other diet-related diseases. According to the PDF Icon Transparent 2010 Colorado Health Report Card, Colorado's rank for childhood obesity dropped from third healthiest in 2003 to 23rd in 2007, when 14 percent of the state’s children were classified as obese. Meanwhile, Colorado’s obesity rate has nearly doubled in the past 15 years, according to a report from the Trust for America’s Health; one in five Coloradans are obese and 56.2 percent are either overweight or obese.

In response to these findings and to address this pressing public health issue, Denver’s Department of Environmental Health, the Colorado Health Foundation and The Food Trust (a national food-access nonprofit), convened the Denver Food Access Task Force, a partnership of leaders from the retail food industry, state and local government, public health, economic and community development sectors, and nonprofit foundations.

In the current report, "Healthy Food For All: Encouraging Grocery Investment in Colorado," the task force calls upon city, state and philanthropic organizations to work together to improve the health of Denver’s residents and stimulate economic development through the following:

  • Improve systems within Denver City and County agencies to prioritize food retailing in underserved neighborhoods through data-driven marketing and streamlined development and permitting processes. This includes establishing a single point of contact for the grocery retail industry that coordinates city departments and services for grocery retail development.
  • Establish a public-private development and business financing program to encourage supermarkets to locate in underserved communities. A similar program in Pennsylvania has improved food access for 500,000 residents and created or retained 5,000 jobs.
  • Increase participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as “food stamps,” among eligible participants. In 2009, Colorado ranked 50th among the states and the District of Columbia for SNAP participation, with fewer than 42 percent of eligible residents enrolled.

The task force has pledged to work with key public and private partners in Denver and throughout the state to implement the recommendations, improving food access and encouraging economic development. "If we work together, we can make healthy, affordable food available to all," said Howard Gerelick, co-chair of the task force who also is the vice president of real estate for Safeway’s Denver, Phoenix and Texas divisions. "Our task force is committed to collaborating with all potential partners to ensure the successful implementation of these recommendations and improved access to healthy food across Colorado."

Kathy Underhill, task force co-chair and Hunger Free Colorado executive director, underscored this commitment. "Supermarkets are a vital component for promoting healthy eating," Underhill said. "They provide access to healthy, affordable food for our residents while creating jobs and economic development."

Already, there is widespread support for implementing the recommendations from public, private and government entities. "The recommendations presented by the Denver Food Access Task Force mark an important step toward our pledge to support and grow local business and, more importantly, to promote access to healthy foods in every neighborhood," said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock.

"Access to healthy foods for all Coloradans, especially the underserved, is a top priority for the Colorado Health Foundation," said Anne Warhover, president and CEO of the Foundation, which funded the task force’s report. "The recommendations outlined in the report will help drive our future funding decisions as we work to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation."

About the Colorado Health Foundation
The Colorado Health Foundation works to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation by increasing the number of Coloradans with health insurance, ensuring they have access to quality, coordinated care and encouraging healthy living. The Foundation invests in the community through grants and initiatives to health-related nonprofits that focus on these goals, as well as operating medical education programs to increase the health care workforce. For more information, please visit

About the City and County of Denver Environmental Health
The Department of Environmental Health is responsible for providing environmental oversight and management, as well as public health promotion and outreach for the City & County of Denver. Our mission is to promote healthy communities, and with our partner Denver Public Health, we provide essential public health services for Denver's residents. For more information, please visit

About the Food Trust
The Food Trust strives to make healthy food available to all. Working with neighborhoods, schools, grocers, farmers and policymakers, we've developed a comprehensive approach that combines nutrition education and greater availability of affordable, healthy food. For more information, please visit