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Fighting food deserts with social media

Posted: 5:21 PM, Mar 29, 2016
Updated: 2016-03-29 18:21:57-04

DENVER, Colo. — No need to go door-to-door, now neighbors can solve shared problems by communicating online.

One Denver community is using the Nextdoor application to fix the food desert issue. Eric Johnson wants to see a grocery store open in his West Colfax neighborhood, but the big brand names are not interested.

"It's a very old business district, so they said there's not enough parking for us," said Johnson, the West Colfax Food Co-Op Board Chairman.

He's not the only one who finds it worrisome that the nearest grocery store is almost two miles down the road.

"It's hard to get on the buses, sometimes they have to drop them, because if they don't come right up to the curb. It's quite the step," said Mindy Brooker, who has to ride the bus to the grocery store and carry the groceries back by hand.

Johnson wants community members like Brooker to have access to fresh groceries, and hopes using the app will help rally others to join the cause.

"You can use social media to activate your community and have another mechanism to communicate," said Johnson.

He has used the app to share information about co-op meetings and to conduct surveys asking where people are getting their food. Johnson says the convenience store was a common response.

"Well, like I wanted an onion because I like onions in all my food," said Brooker. "I can't get none here. I have to go all the way to the grocery store just to get an onion."

The West Colfax Co-Op's ultimate goal is to sell fresh, local produce at a central location. The group is also focused on educating community members about how to cook healthy foods.

A Nextdoor survey found only 14 percent of Americans have a way of communicating with others in their community, and 56 percent of people said they interact "very little" with their neighbors.