We believe that Denver--with its highly welcoming business climate, wonderfully diverse "discovered" and locally owned shops, and hot demand for chef-driven restaurants--is poised to emerge as the nation's next great retail city.
Denver FRESH is a City and County of Denver program designed to expand grocery stores in underserved areas. “Underserved areas” are those that are further away from full service grocery stores than other neighborhoods and have lower than average incomes and vehicle ownership, which may limit access as well. These are areas most in need of food stores that offer a full range of nutritious, healthy, affordable food.
A growing body of research shows a link between food access and health, but many Denver neighborhoods lack close and convenient access to grocery stores. The resulting lack of nutritious, affordable fresh food has been linked to poor health outcomes, including heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Access to healthy, affordable food is part of Denver’s larger economic development, health improvement and sustainability goals. Healthy food retail development also offers economic benefits by bringing dollars and jobs to our neediest neighborhoods.
Denver FRESH assists healthy food retailers by providing a range of tools and resources to open or expand their stores. Because healthy food access is such a comprehensive subject with far-reaching implications, Denver FRESH is a collaborative project of OED and the Office of Environmental Health.
Denver FRESH Program Goals are to:
We are committed to supporting healthy food retail expansion for not only the health benefits, but for the economic vitality of communities.
Denver FRESH is open for business! Contact our retail specialist, Eric Swan, at email@example.com or 720-913-1702 to learn more about how Denver can help you, the community’s next healthy food retailer, build a healthy business . . . while also supporting our community-wide goals of better health through improved healthy food access.
OED offers a wide range of services to help build our local economy to assist entrepreneurs and local business owners, from the newest start-ups to the region’s largest employers and everything in between. These include:
Financing: OED has many existing relationships with small business lenders and commercial banks with which financing may be available. The Colorado Fresh Food Financing Fund (CO4F) is also able to provide funding specific to fresh food related endeavors. In addition, OED offers two "gap" financing programs to assist startup and expanding businesses.
Enterprise Zone Tax Credit: This is a State of Colorado tax credit program that allows businesses located within a specific geographic area to receive tax credits against their state tax liability.
Business Investment Program: This program’s tax credit/incentive approach encourages firms to hire more people and invest in more equipment by eliminating the general fund portion of business personal property tax for four years for any Denver-based business that meets certain criteria of new business investment and job growth.
Workforce Development: Within OED’s Workforce Development programs are no-cost services to help you strengthen your recruiting, screening, interviewing, assessing, training, re-training, or displacement support of workers.
Site Selection: OED can assist you with finding the right building or site to meet the needs of your healthy food retail business.
Certifiably Green Denver: This Department of Environmental Health program provides free, confidential, non-regulatory environmental assistance to Denver’s business community. The program helps businesses find opportunities to improve efficiency and profitability while minimizing environmental liability through pollution prevention. Sustainability advisers are provided at no cost and begin by visiting your business to complete a comprehensive assessment identifying ways to conserve.
Brownfields Redevelopment: OED works with developers, investors, stakeholders and members of the community for the successful redevelopment of brownfields sites such as former industrial sites, gas stations, dry cleaners, junkyards, and landfills. This includes sustainable environmental cleanup, removal of blight, reinvestment in our established communities, and neighborhood revitalization with a focus on providing community benefits, healthy environments and job creation.
If you are new to the food retail industry or expanding your existing retail operation to include more food, we are ready to help provide advice and guidance. There are regulatory requirements that apply to Denver’s approximately 5,000 food businesses, including restaurants, bars, convenience stores, bakeries, dairies, grocery stores, food trucks, and health care and residential community facilities that include dining.
The Denver Business Licensing Center issues five classes of retail food licenses. Food retail licenses are required for retailers that store, prepare, package or provide food for sale, on or off premises.
The Food Safety Program is designed to reduce the incidence of food-borne disease (commonly called food poisoning) through inspection of food businesses, education of those working with food, investigation of complaints, enforcement of regulations that affect the safety of food, and education of consumers about food safety.
Interested in opening a food truck? The city offers a step-by-step guide. A permit is required.
NEW! Fresh Produce and Cottage Sales allows the small-scale preparation and sale of fresh produce (whole, uncut fruits and vegetables and herbs) as well as cottage food products on residentially owned land. A permit is required.
We’re here to guide you with whatever your project will require. Our goal is to ensure your success as the owner of a healthy food retail business!
Denver FRESH has mapped the locations of current food stores, and can offer information to help you consider potential areas to open or expand a store that does not currently offer a range of healthy food.
“Underserved areas” are those which are:
more than ¼ mile from a full service grocery store, AND
have a higher-than-average percentage of low-income residents, AND
have a higher-than-average percentage of residents with no vehicle.
GIS maps of Denver food retailers:
Other Healthy Food Retail resources:
On request, Denver FRESH can produce market profiles of underserved neighborhoods. The market information includes the number of food retailers and the demographics of the customer base, including household income, car ownership, and annual spending on groceries.
What is “healthy food?”
Healthy food includes affordable fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, lean meats, poultry, fish, whole grains, and low-fat milk. These are items which are necessary to prepare nutritious, affordable meals at home.
How is “access” to healthy food retailers defined?
“Access” refers to the distance that a resident must travel from home to get to a healthy food store. The generally accepted definition of “access” is one mile. However, a “reasonable distance” for someone walking or using transit while carrying grocery bags is closer to ¼ mile. An analysis of “reasonable distance” is also based on comparing how far a resident in a low-income, underserved neighborhood must travel versus the distance traveled by a resident in a higher-income, well-served neighborhood where healthy food retail is more available.
What are “underserved areas?”
An area that is underserved is defined as having residents who lack access to healthy food because they live farther than the average Denver distance from a supermarket or grocery store. In addition, underserved areas have lower incomes on average than the city as a whole, and lower vehicle ownership, which makes transportation to grocery stores more difficult and restricts access to healthy foods.
How can I participate with my existing store?
The Denver FRESH program has been designed to address a range of scenarios involving promoting the development of healthy food retail, including both existing as well as new businesses. We will work individually with each existing or aspiring retail owner to determine whether a project can benefit from the financing and assistance options available.
What if I want to launch a food retail store, but need help with how and where?
Denver FRESH has created GIS maps showing all existing or planned food retail establishments throughout Denver. Combined with median income and household profiles, this mapping can help you determine which areas have the highest need and lowest access.
In addition, because Denver FRESH is part of the Office of Economic Development, we can advise you on a wide range of business support issues from enterprise zones, small business financing, tax credits, community development funds, employee recruitment and training, and commercial real estate options.
For general information about starting a business in Denver, download the Business Startup Checklist.
What if I have a site in mind already, but am not open for business?
Denver FRESH can work with you to determine how the allocation of space and merchandising can help your project succeed. We know that every project is unique, and look forward to discussing your plans with you.
What financing resources are available for my food retail project?
Because the challenges of health food access are actively being addressed on the federal and state level as well as here in Denver, we are able to direct you to a number of financing opportunities that you may qualify for, from business loans to community development grants to funding through such initiatives as the Colorado Fresh Food Financing Fund (CO4F).
What does healthy food access have to do with economic development?
Healthy food makes for healthy people, who build stronger communities and enjoy an enhanced quality of life. Better public health means more money can be directed instead to public safety, infrastructure like roads and parks, better schools, affordable housing, protecting the environment, and arts and culture. More retail in any neighborhood creates local jobs.
How will the Denver FRESH program measure its success?
Every individual food retail business that either opens with healthy food choices or adds healthy food to its existing merchandise mix will help Denver’s residents in that neighborhood eat better and live better, so every project matters to our shared success.
Our work will be done when all underserved areas in the city are eliminated due to more healthy retail available, households add more healthy food to their diet, overall health indicators such as diabetes and obesity are positively affected, and both the overall nutritional health of both Denver residents as well as the economic health of Denver retail owners is sustainably strong.
Zoning for primary food sales or markets
Denver Open Data Catalog
Colorado financing opportunities
Colorado Fresh Food Financing Fund
Colorado Enterprise Fund
Mile High Community Loan Fund
SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called "food stamps")
Become a SNAP Authorized Retailer
WIC (Special supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants, and Children)
Become a WIC Authorized Retailer
National food policy
National Healthy Food Financing Initiative
The Food Trust
Healthy Food Access Portal
Access to Healthy Food and Why It Matters: A Review of the Research
The Grocery Gap: Who Has Access to Healthy Food and Why It Matters
The Reinvestment Fund