The Colorado Health Foundation is the third largest health-focused foundation in the United States, with $2.4 billion in assets. Health coverage, health care, and healthy living are the organization's three areas of concentration, with a vision to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation.
CO4F was developed
as a result of several partners convening on ways to improve access to fresh food, and the Colorado Health Foundation's role was critical. In the program's early stages, it was identified that lack of capital for grocers was a key issue that must be addressed. The Foundation became a founding CO4F partner by investing $7.1 million in seed funding to launch the program, helping food retailers access capital to improve healthy food access in their communities.
"Healthy food is such an important part of an individual's health. Knowing that many people in the state simply do not have access to fresh, healthy food caused the Colorado Health Foundation to get involved and help address this issue. Being a CO4F partner is critical to our core mission," said Chris Smith, Colorado Health Foundation Senior Program Officer.
Part of the Colorado Health Foundation's mission is to encourage healthy lifestyle choices. Smith explains how food deserts affect choices in both rural and urban communities.
"You make your purchasing decisions based on what's available in your community, and if there aren't options, traveling to other towns becomes a hardship on many, and really affects the economics of small, rural areas. In urban neighborhoods, easy access to unhealthy options becomes the obstacle. Each locale has its own challenges-it's ultimately the same problem but it manifests differently," he said.
In addition to CO4F, the Colorado Health Foundation funds other programs that promote healthy communities. The Healthy K-12 School Meals through Scratch Cooking program supports school districts that are transitioning from processed school meals to healthy meals cooked from scratch. The Foundation also funds Healthy Places, an initiative that aims to increase physical activity by supporting built environments that are safer, easier, and more appealing to engage in physical activities.