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Colorado Senators Pay DUG a Visit to Celebrate EPA Grant

Senators Hickenlooper and Bennet looking at the worm compost bin with DUG's Jungle Judy.

We are thrilled to celebrate this achievement in community and energize toward action and positive change. 

On Tuesday, November 21st, DUG welcomed Colorado Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper, as well as Councilwoman Torres, to the El Oasis de Lorraine at Focus Points Family Resource Center Community Garden. At the celebration, we shared DUG’s history, presented our expansive programming, and discussed our future plans for the EPA grant. 

In 2023, DUG received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). DUG was one of 5 grant recipients from the EPA’s Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Cooperative Agreement Program as part of President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, where the program’s grants totaled almost $4 million.

With the generous grant, DUG plans to expand our efforts through community garden and food forest expansion into six neighborhoods in West Denver, including Barnum, Barnum West, Sun Valley, Valverde, Villa Park, and West Colfax. Planting successful and community-maintained fruit-bearing forests and community gardens in an area of Denver with low tree canopy is a way to reduce the heat island effect, regenerate urban land, and promote healthy food access to the Denver metro area. With the grant, DUG plans to build at least six community gardens and nine food forests, expanding from our current 200 community gardens and 20 food forests (as of November 2023).

In this pivotal moment in DUG’s 45-year history, it was important for us to host at one of our beloved gardens. Having been an active community garden within the DUG network since 2012, El Oasis de Lorraine at Focus Points Family Resource Center Community Garden was an ideal choice. The event began with welcomes from DUG’s Director of Corporate Partnerships, Nessa Mogharreban, who acknowledged the positive impact the Colorado senators had on making this dream a reality.

“We want to thank our Colorado senators for their support and stewardship of the EPA grant. We’re incredibly excited to put the funds to work to enhance public health and environmental justice in Denver’s West Area, which is represented by Councilwoman Torres.” — Nessa Mogharreban, Director of Corporate Partnerships (DUG)

Multiple photos from the Senators' visit to DUG garden El Oasis de Lorraine

The morning continued with DUG representatives, Kelly and Jolon, sharing DUG’s incredible history and program growth with the crowd. Councilwoman Torres and  DUG’s Director of Gardens, Lara, followed with an explanation on the Denver West Area Plan and the anticipated positive impact of the EPA grant in the area. Lara shared information on the positive environmental and health benefits of food forests and community gardens, including increased biodiversity and carbon sequestration. We rounded out the event with DUG composting wizards “Jungle Judy” and Kristi sharing a hands-on worm composting demo that we could not get enough of. With dozens of community members and volunteers, nonprofit and government partners, and more, we relished in the chilly air, enjoyed hot coffee, and got dirty with worms (Senator Hickenlooper even dug his hands in to pick out a squirmy worm to show the kids).

Stay tuned with our DUG Digest news articles or on Instagram to follow our progress!

Additional Resources

We also wanted to give a big “thank you” to our community gardeners and volunteers, as well as Conservation Colorado, Denver Parks & Recreation, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), FEED Media, and Focus Points Family Resource Center for all of your support in organizing, hosting, attending, and celebrating with us!