CU Wellness Center

Food deserts, or large urban areas without easy access to healthy foods, have long been cited as a cause of malnutrition and obesity in poor, urban populations. But plopping a grocery store down in the middle of a troubled neighborhood will no more solve the nutrition problems of the community than opening a bank would solve poverty. Food desert communities need more resources than just a produce aisle, and that’s where food hubs come in.

Food deserts, or large urban areas without easy access to healthy foods, have long been cited as a cause of malnutrition and obesity in poor, urban populations. But plopping a grocery store down in the middle of a troubled neighborhood will no more solve the nutrition problems of the community than opening a bank would solve poverty. Food desert communities need more resources than just a produce aisle, and that’s where food hubs come in.

A food hub, like the CornUcopia Place, which has just opened in Cincinnati, offer groceries, yes. But they also offer cafes serving healthy, affordable food, community wellness programs, nutritional education, health screenings and cooking classes. CornUcopia Place even offers space for cleaning and preparing fresh produce from the area’s community gardens, a mobile produce truck that sells fresh goods all around the neighborhood, and an on- site orchard.

In Aurora, just outside of Denver, Colorado, the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center offers a similar food hub for both the employees and patients on its brand-new glitzy University of Denver Medical Center campus, but also for the low income neighborhoods surrounding the campus. The center offers a health-conscious cafe, cooking classes, fitness classes and services, nutrition and obesity counseling, and a “Grocery Lab,” run by King Soopers grocery store that offers workshops and classes (as well as an academic setting for behavior studies) to help people make better food choices in the grocery store.

The idea behind these food hubs is simple: give a person access to healthy food, and he might eat well once in a while. Teach him why he should be eating healthfully, how to choose the food, how to prepare it, and more, and he will eat well for a lifetime. 

Photo courtesy University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus Wellness Center