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Towoac Grocery Plan Gets a Boost – The Durango Herald

Towaoc is the capital of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe.

Tribe embarks on fundraising campaign to raise $12 million to fight food desert

The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe is moving forward with plans to build their first grocery store in Towaoc.

The Rocky Mountain Health Foundation recently awarded the tribe $30,000 to prepare a fundraising campaign plan to help the tribe raise approximately $12 million needed to build a grocery store and health center. innovation for the workforce.

The Center for Rural Outreach and Public Services Inc. provided $6,000 in matching funds for the project.

The tribe finds itself in a “food desert” with no convenient access to healthy food choices, fresh fruits and vegetables and meat, said tribal chairman Manuel Heart. The nearest grocery stores are 24 km away in Cortez.

Preliminary plans are to build the store north of the Ute Mountain Casino near US Highway 491 and north of the powwow grounds.

“We are three steps away from realizing our members’ dream of having a grocery store on the reservation,” Heart said in a May 12 press release.

The goal is to raise funds by 2024 to develop all phases of the new business venture, he said.

In addition to providing groceries and fresh food, the facility will provide entrepreneurship opportunities, food industry workforce training, and new jobs for tribal members.

Ute Mountain Planning Director Bernadette Cuthair spearheaded the project in 2019 when she applied for funding for a feasibility study and engaged the community in numerous planning sessions.

“What is exciting about this project, in addition to bringing fresh fruits and vegetables to our food desert, is that the entire Towaoc community has had the opportunity to participate in focus group sessions or attend monthly steering committee meetings to provide feedback that led to the design of the facility,” Cuthair said in the release.

Focus group sessions involved youth, elders, health professionals, tribal businesses, Head Start, K-12 educators, program directors, and tribal leaders.

Heart said the tribe has already requested more than $5 million in grants for the project and expects funding to be available to begin the project early next fiscal year.

A presentation of the grocery store capitalization campaign plan is being produced by award-winning photographer Anthony Two Moons and is expected to be completed by mid-June when presented to the community and potential fundraising partners.

The feasibility study for the grocery store project was supported by the Colorado Fresh Food Funding Fund in conjunction with the Southwest Colorado Region 9 Economic Development District. CO4F is a private, statewide fund that aims to improve access to healthy food in underserved communities.

Progressive Urban Management Associates supported CO4F through marketing, outreach, and technical assistance services to produce the feasibility study with the engagement of Ute Mountain Ute Tribe members.

The team also secured support from Eric Kornacki of THRIVE Partners, an expert in food access and the culture of food systems within marginalized communities. Kornacki has been instrumental in engaging community members, project planning, architectural design, fundraising, and developing engineering and construction plans.

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