Cities Hire Food Systems Experts To Address Obesity, Food Access

At least 22 cities, from Baltimore to Denver, have created leadership roles for change-makers focused on food.

Standing at the front of a dimly-lit room inside the National Western Stock Show, a sprawling complex on the north end of Denver, Blake Angelo, the city’s food systems development manager, invited a roundtable audience to speak up about the changes they want to see in their neighborhoods with regard to food. The room was filled with residents of nearby neighborhoods that are predominantly Hispanic, low-income, and where fresh food is hard to come by, and the opinions ranged from support for local entrepreneurs to rejecting big-box stores as the solution to their food desert problem.

Citywide, one in six people is food-insecure, but as in other cities, some communities face more acute challenges than others. Nearly half (49 percent) of the low- to moderate-income Denver neighborhoods lack convenient access to grocery stores. In the larger metro region, about five percent of the population is low-income and has little access to healthy food within a mile from home; in Elyria-Swansea, one of the nearby neighborhoods, that number jumps to 70 percent.