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New farmers market lets customers pay what they can

Lost City Market is open on Wednesday evenings with the goal of serving the Globeville Elyria-Swansea community.

DENVER — A new farmers market invites customers to pay what they can as they shop for fresh produce and other food items. The Lost City Market opened earlier this month to the Globeville Elyria-Swansea (GES) community.

It's a partnership between Focus Points Family Resource Center, Lost City Coffee shop, and East Denver Food Hub with the goal of bringing affordable access to healthy, local produce to the community. GES is described as a ‘food desert,’ meaning access to affordable, good quality and nutritious food is limited.

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“This is a vibrant wonderful neighborhood," said Matthew Vernon, of Focus Points. "Unfortunately, grocers haven’t made their way into the neighborhood.” 

It's also a part of Denver hit particularly hard during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The 80216 GES neighborhood is predominately Latinx," Vernon said. "These are folks that are typically low income, immigrant-refugee status. And whenever there’s a downturn, or something like a pandemic, that we’ve all been experiencing, these communities are hit hard first and they have the longest recovery time.”

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The market’s model allows customers to choose between three options:

  1. They pay a suggested price for their groceries
  2. They pay what they can afford
  3. They pay for their groceries by volunteering at a future market

In a press release, organizers said the model is “made possible through an established fund that will initially cover up to $2,000 worth of produce and goods weekly, as well as through the generosity of partner organizations and the State of Colorado.”

“So folks feel safe and have ability to come in and have groceries they need in the middle of the week on Wednesday nights,” he explained. “But also the farmers and other food partners are being paid as well and we're keeping the equity in the food system on both sides.”

The market is open every Wednesday night through October, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. It's located at the TAXI complex near Lost City (3459 Ringsby Court) in Denver.

Earlier this year, Lost City and Focus Points teamed up with other organizations to launch the Denver Metro Emergency Food Network (DMEFN) to address food insecurity and food access issues made worse by the pandemic. So far, organizers say DMEFN has delivered more than 250,000 free meals to home-bound families and elderly initials in need.

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Kyle Kickhaefer shopped at the new Lost City Market this past Wednesday.

“Fortunately I have the means and have a very secure job where I can come and pay the suggested price for everything I pick up,” he said. “I know this is a hard time for a lot of people, I also know it’s difficult for people to come find good healthy food in a food desert. To the extent that I pay a subsidized price that helps someone else, it makes me even happier to come and try to support this.”

One of the vendors at the market is Comal, which is a restaurant and catering business education program within the Focus Points Family Resource Center. This Wednesday, Claire Wescott and Silvia Hernandez were behind the Comal booth.

“I’m seeing two things,” Wescott said. “One is people who really want to support this model of market, who will come and spend more money than they need to, because they can afford to, and it pays for the groceries of others. And we’re also seeing a lot of people who want to come and purchase more affordable groceries, that are healthy, nutritious, in an area where it’s harder to find them.”

Organizers said they are working to partner with local farms and vendors who are – when possible – people of color, women, immigrant-owned and refugee-owned. Hernandez came to Denver from Mexico City in 2013. She is a participant in Comal’s program and has her own catering business: La Catrina Grill.

“I like to be here because, first, I like to promote the food we make," she said. "And second, I like the people to have access to that food and know about it."

To learn more about Lost City Market, visit the organization's website.

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