Lakewood’s effort to foster a complete local food system means looking beyond residents relying on backyard gardening, community gardens and urban farms. In its latest project, the City’s Head Start preschool program is bringing fresh food directly to the families.

Lakewood’s Family Services Manager Brent Berninger says this approach is a great way to connect with neighborhoods and families in need, and it “speaks volumes about the City’s dedication” to serving residents directly.

Lakewood’s Mountair Park Community Farm, an urban farming partnership between the City and nonprofit Sprout City Farms, is donating fresh produce to families at Lakewood’s 11th Avenue Head Start facilities on a weekly basis throughout the 2017 harvest season. Each distribution day finds farm staff supplying parents at the facility with bagged produce, cooking tips and recipes.

The project launched after an initial interest survey led to a successful trial event last October, and it’s been coupled with another pilot program this fall to provide education on and a way to attain healthy eating habits, particularly for residents who have difficulty accessing fresh food.

The pilot program involves the City becoming a partner with Golden-based nonprofit GoFarm. This collaboration provides low-cost fruits and vegetables to families at three more of the City’s Head Start facilities. The GoFarm to Families Program aims to improve access to and affordability of fresh fruits and vegetables for young children and their families who are living on lower incomes.

Currently, the City’s Head Start programs serve 133 families, so these opt-in fresh food projects can reach hundreds of Lakewood children and parents, Berninger notes.

For those looking to get involved, volunteering opportunities are available by visiting the above websites. GoFarm and Sprout City Farms also offer food shares for sale directly to the community, and both accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, which come from the federally funded food assistance program for low-income residents, along with the electronic benefit transfer part of the program.