What began as a project on the Alma affair by Zac Chapman, Colorado College, is now a small (but growing) movement to bring justice to the city’s food system.
Chapman is originally from Scotch Plains, New Jersey, “your standard suburb”. He is the executive director of the nonprofit Colorado Springs Food Rescue.
The philosophy student moved to Colorado Springs in 2009 to attend CC and moved to Oregon after graduating. There he worked in nutrition education and directed programs at the high school level. He left that job in 2015 – the same time Colorado Springs Food Rescue hired its first general manager.
“With my connections in Colorado Springs and my interest in developing nutritional education and sustainable and equitable food systems, this seemed like a perfect match,” he said. “I went through a two-month application process and moved here in June 2015. Since then I’ve been managing director. “
Did you have any plans when you decided to study philosophy?
Yes, I had a couple of things on my mind. The meal was one of them. There are many questions about ethics and sustainable food systems and how we can achieve a healthy, fair food system. I also ran the Colorado College farm when I was a student there. When I was in school, I ran a community-sponsored farming program. The CSA program was in New Jersey over a summer. … We went to a three county cooperative and picked up bulk materials from various farmers and made boxes of groceries that we would sell to consumers. It was kind of a partial CSA because traditionally there is a farmer who sells food directly to the consumer.
One thing that philosophy brought out in me is the ability to talk to people and write scholarships. These have been very beneficial for my tenure here in the food rescue.
What does the food rescue do?
Our mission is to maintain a healthy, equitable food system in the greater Colorado Springs area. To do this, we are integrating neighborhood programs that promote access to fresh food, education about fresh food, and opportunities to grow fresh food.
We tie all of these things together at the neighborhood level, especially in neighborhoods that have historically been marginalized and underinvested to truly promote the health of the population. There is nothing in this mission statement about saving and redistributing food. That is a program and aspect of this nonprofit that we have grown into.
Yes, we rescue and distribute 30,000 pounds of healthy, nutritious, and perishable food every month. So far this year we’ve saved over a million dollars in healthy, fresh food.
And how do you do that?
We work with 60 different community organizations where the food is distributed at the community level. We have a free grocery program. For example, every Saturday in this room neighbors from the Hillside Neighborhood gather and run a free grocery program. … Every Friday morning, between 500 and 1,500 pounds of fresh groceries are redistributed here by one of our grocery partners like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. The meal is organized by volunteers who run the program. We also have neighbors running cooking and juicing demonstrations. … We are really trying to de-stigmatize stigma and build relationships with what has traditionally been helpful in providing food relief.
How many people are you affected?
We serve 15,000 people each year through our food access program. However, our second pillar of nutrition education is based on a program called FLY, which stands for Food Systems Leadership for Youth. It is a service-based youth employment and internship program that began at Atlas Preparatory School.
We have high schoolers who have a free grocery program. They distribute food for and from their community, and we are pursuing this with a food systems education component where they ask critical questions about our food system such as, “Why is my neighborhood a food swamp (and not a food desert)? ) where we have three corner shops and five fast food places and I don’t have a grocery store to buy fresh produce but Briargate has access to all that fresh food? ‘
The Hillside Neighborhood, for example – the closest place to buy groceries is 7-Eleven. … food swamps and food deserts can overlap, but in a food swamp … there is a shortage of fresh food, but a high percentage of unhealthy retailers.
How do you fight that?
One thing that we have done as a facet of our food education pillar is to work with El Paso County Public Health to conduct the first ever food systems assessment in El Paso County. The aim is to identify environmental and systemic solutions for unhealthy food environments. … What the [assessment] Shows are… Areas in our city with a high number of unhealthy grocery retailers and a low number of healthy grocery retailers are higher poverty rates.
The clearest example is the Meadows Park neighborhood adjacent to the Broadmoor area.
The four neighborhoods we focus on when evaluating food systems are Meadows Park, Hillside, Pikes Peak Park, and Knob Hill – generally our city’s southeast quadrant.
Is something new in the works?
We asked ourselves what it would be like to start a healthy and fair food system in our community. The facet we would like to see in what we are tentatively referring to as the “Hillside Hub” is a four-season solar passive greenhouse. That would produce leafy greens, herbs, etc., which would be sold to both local caterers and restaurant partners and sold to our neighborhood partners at discounted prices. There would also be an outdoor community learning farm and we will be working with some indigenous organizations to have an indigenous garden there. We would like to work with Pikes Peak Urban Gardens and Concrete Couch to expand this space as well.
The second component of the built aspect would be a wider community learning center that would include a larger free grocery program … and the potential for an equitable retail program that is still in the pilot phase because we are testing a small program. Scale Buying Club.
The administrative offices for CSFR will be there as well as community workshops.
We really bring together aspects of food production, education and access. We know if a 5 year old girl physically pulls a carrot out of the ground instead of seeing carrots in a can, then that girl is far more likely to eat carrots for the rest of her life. There is all of this statistical data to show the importance of not only providing access to fresh food, but also just providing education about nutrition. Not only to offer real growth opportunities, but also how important it is to connect them together – especially in a community building and a community-built space.
Do you have land to build on?
We spoke to the Legacy Institute, an offshoot of the Lane Foundation, which has bought land across town. … You are involved in community development and we approached you with this idea. We closed this property earlier this August [in the Hillside Neighborhood]. We acquired it as a donation in kind valued at $ 354,000, receiving $ 100,000 in seed capital for the capital component from the Bluhm Foundation. We have also received funding from the Lane Foundation, the Legacy Institute, the Edmondson Foundation, and the Dakota Foundation.
What we’re doing at this point is a local community cleanup – there’s a lot of glass. We also do town halls through the project and I write a lot of scholarships. The bold plan is to start building the built area in late 2019 and to open the outdoor community learning farm in the first half of 2019.
Do you work exclusively with scholarships?
We launched our first formal social enterprise called Soil Cycle back in August this year, which is a household compost collection service. We received start-up funding from an anonymous donor and the … [the Pikes Peak Community Foundation] Cover the initial cost of starting this household compost collection service. We have commercial compost, just like Poor Richards has a huge dumpster, as does Bestway Recycling. But many cities our size have a compost-pickup program for leftover food on the residential level. … We just started piloting in the Shooks Run area and grew a little north of downtown. … We have about 30 customers who pay on a scale – between $ 4 and $ 10 a week – to have all of their leftover food collected.
The idea is that we have a compost component for the community learning farm to create soil from that compost in which the food can actually be grown. But there is a new aspect of our organization that we mandated in our strategic plan to have a certain percentage of our income in the future from earned income.
What should people know about food?
I would ask people, when you eat tonight, just look at your plate and think about where each ingredient on your plate came from, who grew the food, how it came to you, and under what environmental and economic conditions the food came from was produced. And how you accessed this food yourself.