It all started with a question: What makes you mad? During my second year at the University of Denver in the Pioneer Leadership Program, we were required to find an issue that “made us mad.” To be honest, there were quite a few things that made me mad: discrimination based on race, the wage-gap, and poverty. As I thought and thought about these issues, my stomach began to growl. Suddenly, it hit me. One issue that actually infuriates me is unequal access to resources, especially in food. Through this project, I came across the term “food desert” and learned that a food desert is not a place where no food grows, but rather one that does not provide nutritious food for its residences. This curiosity led me to move forward on focusing my time researching the food deserts that exist in Denver alone and I was shocked to find out the answer. This project in my leadership was short-lived, but forever stayed in the back of my mind.
Flash-forward to a year and a half later and you’ll find me looking for summer internship programs. I quickly came across the Nonprofit Internship Program at the Denver Foundation—a program that develops students’ leadership in the community, exposes students to several aspects of the work of a nonprofit organization, and introduces interns to a community of their peers who are also interested in improving Metro Denver. I looked more into this program and I immediately was drawn toward one specific nonprofit: Re:Vision. This organization caught my attention immediately because it was the perfect way for me to combat my animosity toward food deserts that exist in the Denver community, particularly in Westwood, and integrate myself in this Latino community.
One interview and a yummy dinner at a Pho restaurant later, I became an intern for the wonderful organization of Re:Vision under Joseph’s supervision. So what would be my role in fighting this issue of food injustice? Well, as a matter of fact, Westwood is considered a food desert. Although this neighborhood is filled with the best taco restaurants, the closest grocery store is King Soopers, which is over a 30-minute walk away. Reading about these statistics was one thing, but actually experiencing them was another. I fell in love with the Westwood neighborhood once I stepped foot on the diagonal road of Morrison. I loved hearing the Spanish language on every block and being able to converse with others in their native tongue. I came into it as an outsider from Thornton, which is a city just 30 minutes North of Denver. Though it is only 30 minutes away, it has a completely different atmosphere of Westwood. I came from an affluent city where I was one of the only people of color (the other including my brother) and never hearing any language other than English. Working with this new community of Westwood further pushed my passion in fighting the food injustices they faced.
I never realized how easy it was for me to drive or walk to a grocery store until I came to Westwood. Once I became the Westwood Food Co-op Outreach Coordinator, I began plan the steps of starting a grocery store in this neighborhood that rightfully deserved one. After working in Westwood, I’ve learned not to take my grocery stores for granted. It was frustrating, though, to know that not every community is able to get to a grocery store so that they can provide healthy food for their families. My time at Re:Vision, however, has showed me that communities do have a voice in fighting for their needs.
Below is a link to a video I created about my leadership experience here at Re:Vision!