Accessing healthy and affordable food is a big problem for many people in Colorado Springs and Pueblo.
They are living in areas called food deserts.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food deserts as parts of the country without access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and other healthy whole foods.
In Pueblo, one food desert is located on the west side where a Safeway grocery store on 29th Street closed last year.
The closest grocery store from there is a half a mile away, a long way to go for people without transportation.
It's just one of many food deserts in Pueblo.
News 5 found out beyond the inconvenience, food deserts also pose a very real health risk.
"We have to now travel anywhere from three to ten miles just to get to a store,” said Irene Bacamoore who was devastated when the Safeway on Pueblo’s east side closed.
Domenic Mares also lives in the neighborhood. She said, "We're having to travel to Walmart all the way up I-25 just to get, you know, groceries that your family can survive on."
The two women are able to travel, but they know that some low-income and elderly people in their neighborhood cannot.
Mares said, "They struggle to survive day by day just because they don't have the bread or…they don't have money to go every day or once a week to go to the grocery store."
Bacamoore says she and other people will “run to our local 7-11 , Shamrock Station, whatever the case may be, which is...not a healthy thing to do."
Cathryn Sanchez, health promotions specialist with Pueblo City-County Health Department said, "Traditionally those type of stores have foods that are high in cholesterol, high in fat, high in sugar. The problem with a diet such as that is that it can lead to obesity."
Another factor is that, typically, convenient stores are more expensive.
Reverend Linda Stetter, director of integration & spiritual care at St. Mary-Corwin, said, "As a mission leader in a hospital where we're so concerned with the health of our community, and as a citizen of Pueblo where I just look around and see other people around me, I'm tremendously sad that we have so much need and food insecurity."
The medical center is in the Bessemer neighborhood. Stetter says she and other workers run a farm stand on the hospital campus a few months out of the year.
"It's public. Anyone can come and purchase. We sell right at wholesale so it's the most affordable food around…families who have SNAP cards can come and really feed their family very, very well."
Looking north of Pueblo there are more trouble spots.
"There are multiple food deserts throughout Colorado Springs,” said Zac Chapman, executive director of Colorado Springs Food Rescue.
It’s an organization combating food deserts and the problems they present, in areas you might not expect.
"We see quite a few on the southeastern side of town…North Nevada area. The downtown is considered a food desert,” said Chapman.
"As we see larger stores, retailers, be pushed to the outskirts of neighborhoods or outside of neighborhoods, in general that's where see more of these food deserts."
Chapman says a food policy advisory board, created by a city council member, is working to help address this problem.
"It's looking to potential policy work that could help to create a more healthy food system both in our city and in El Paso County."
In the meantime, organizations are stepping up to fill the gaps.
Karen Logan, economic & administrative services director for El Paso County Department of Human Services, said, "Food pantries include places like Care and Share, but they also include a large number of our faith-based organizations, churches, ecumenical social ministries, things like that where people can access some ability to get some food commodities."
The goal is to help those who are most vulnerable because as Stetter says food deserts present “a tremendous health issue."
If you need help accessing food in Colorado Springs or Pueblo follow the links below.
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