By Jamie Leary
DENVER (CBS4)– Steve Lockhart and Ashleigh Ruehrdanz were finishing their degrees at the Colorado School of Public Health and it didn’t take them long to figure out how to put those degrees to use.
“The concept came to fruition in September of 2015. Ashleigh had this idea of trying to figure out a way to address the food access issues that were going on in Denver,” said Lockhart.
The idea formed into a mobile farmers market. It’s a bus retrofitted to bring fresh, organic food directly to neighborhoods in need. Any Street Grocery was born.
“We didn’t see a model similar to this already going on in Denver but it had been successful in other states,” said Lockhart.
Through past and current research, the duo identified several underserved neighborhoods. They noticed in the problem had stayed the same but in others, the “food deserts” were expanding.
“It’s very noticeable,” said Lockhart. “Grocery stores are closing, especially in neighborhoods like this, Montbello.”
On Thursday, the Any Street Grocery bus took its seventh trip, this time parked in front of the Venture for Success Learning Center in Montbello. The food, from Growers Organic, is all organic equal to or less than the price you’d pay in a grocery store.
“This is a food desert,” said Jacqueline Cradle, the school’s co-founder. “Parents and families don’t have immediate access to fresh fruits and veggies aside from 7-Eleven and we really wanted to bring the fresh fruits and veggies to them.”
Cradle says it’s also about educating the children and parents on healthy eating. She excitedly led a group of students onto the bus Thursday and let them pick out some fruits and vegetables for Friday’s lunch.
“I’m hoping that this is a revolving service. That we continue to provide access to quality fruits and quality vegetables,” she said.
Any Street Grocery is working to develop a regular schedule. The first few journeys have been all about spreading the word and connecting with the community.
“Our dream would be to have a bus like this in every neighborhood that has this need. So you know, we would love to have one in Montbello, in North East Park Hill, on the west side, that would be our goal,” said Lockhart.
The nonprofit has received funding through various city incubators but the funding isn’t permanent. Ashleigh and Steve will have to find other avenues to get ahead of the growing problem.
“We both do this on a volunteer basis so, you know, the more funding we can get in the more regular and realistic that dream can be,” said Lochart.
As the nonprofit gets ready to launch a consistent schedule, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, along with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, plans to host an official kick off for the nonprofit in the near future.
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Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn’t imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.