Economic opportunities don’t always present themselves equitably. With that in mind, the city of Durango is partnering with food-based entrepreneurs to provide business opportunities to Spanish- and English-speaking residents.
The city is participating in a Cities’ Inclusive Entrepreneurship Program facilitated by the National League of Cities, and the city’s first line of approach targets food businesses and entrepreneurs, said Tommy Crosby, economic opportunity manager for the city. It hosted its first Spanish- and English-speaking food safety training last week with more courses planned this summer.
After conducting a thorough survey of Durango’s and La Plata County’s food business landscape, the city identified the La Plata Food Equity Coalition as the best resource for which to direct food entrepreneurs.
The survey received about 60 responses from Durango residents and people living in the county, he said. Sixty percent of the respondents were women, 20% were Black, Indigenous and people of color, and 15% of responses were represented by immigrant-owned business owners, who expressed interest in expanding food equity and language justice.
Eleven people attended the first Spanish- and English-speaking sessions, and four more people watched a recorded version of the lessons, he said. They learned about managing microgreens, pies, tortillas and other “ready-to-eat foods.”
The program included participation from the Colorado State University Extension Office and San Juan Basin Public Health, and focused on basic food safety and best practices, he said. The program is meant to run participants through the basics and teach them about regulations and requirements, such as hand-washing stations, proper placement of signage and other appropriate tools and utilities.
“It was really just to identify some of the low-hanging fruit when it comes to, ‘What are the most common mistakes or overlooked best practices when it comes to basic food safety when you're setting up a business,’” he said.
Up next, the La Plata Food Equity Coalition is offering free language justice training from 9-10 a.m. Thursday on Zoom, with RSVP’s available at https://bit.ly/44SdNyn
That particular meeting is focused on the “foundational concepts in language justice practice,” Crosby shared in an email. “Attendees will also sharpen their ‘know-how’ to be able to plan, prepare and execute bilingual meetings and learn about the available resources to assist your organizations with language justice efforts.”
He said the best way to keep in touch with the La Plata Food Equity Coalition’s and CIE’s activities is to subscribe to email@example.com
The La Plata Food Equity Coalition can pass people to other entities, whichever would be the best fit: the city of Durango, Good Food Collective, Southwest Colorado Small Business Development Center, and Southwest Colorado Accelerator for Entrepreneurs.
The city’s first step was to create a food business group, taking guidance from the National League of Cities. The group meets every two weeks and is the driving force behind the CIE Program and was awarded a $15,000 grant from the National League of Cities in April to help develop a program for Durango and area entrepreneurs, he said.
“The goal of this project is to make sure that we're not duplicating any efforts, making sure that we're doing this in an equitable way, and bringing community members who might not always be at the table when it comes to economic development or economic opportunity to the table,” he said.
He said the aim of the project is to allow more communities to have a voice in how resources and efforts in food entrepreneurship are directed.
In doing so, the city hopes to achieve a greater level of diversity, equity and inclusion through expanding affordability for Durango communities and economic opportunity – more livable wages, easier access to child care and housing, and more robust savings accounts, he said.