The Food Access Project - Unreasonable Institute

1 in 6 Denver households live in low-income areas with no access to fresh food.

Together, we can change that.

Our Goal

We’re thrilled to announce the Food Access Project: Tackling Food Deserts in Denver, a partnership between the Unreasonable Institute and the City and County of Denver, Office of Economic Development. Our goal is to increase access to affordable, healthy food in low-income neighborhoods across Denver. How? By providing entrepreneurs tackling this critical issue with the resources, connections, and training they need to scale their impact.

What Each Venture Gets

5-day, in-person bootcamp with Unreasonable Institute curriculum (used in 94 countries around the world)

1-on-1 meetings with world-class mentors, hand selected to help address your venture’s needs

20 hours of financial modeling training from Unreasonable Financial Architects to help you get investment ready

Key introductions to relevant investors who can help your venture scale

Access to an amazing network of over 530 ventures from around the globe

Six months of support from a team of 2-3 committed mentors


Is your venture (for-profit or non-profit) working to increase access to healthy food for low-income communities? Are you serving, or committed to serving, customers in Denver, Colorado?

Applications are open until June 25th!


Applications Open

Let the games begin! We look forward to learning how your venture is addressing the problem of food deserts.

Application Deadline

Save the date: This is the last day we are accepting applications!

Ventures Announced

We'll publicly announce the 10 organizations we've chosen to be part of The Food Access Project!

Introductions to mentors and financial architects

We'll begin to swarm you with the people you need to help you scale your business and create deeper impact.

5-day boot camp!

From September 18-22, the selected ventures will spend five days together in Denver, Colorado, learning from Unreasonable curriculum and hand-selected, world-class mentors

Ongoing support from mentors and financial architects

After the bootcamp, continue to learn from our network of experts through 1:1 calls and meetings

Our Mentors

From the Head of Sustainability at Chipotle, to the former CEO of Rudi’s Organic Bakery, to the founder of Boulder Organic Foods, these are just a handful of the world-class experts who will be advising our selected ventures!

  • Caitlin Leibert
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    Head of Sustainability at Chipotle Mexican Grill
  • Rick Sterling
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    Former Head of Marketing at Celestial Seasonings
  • Libby Cook
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    Co-founder at Wild Oats & Sunflower Markets
  • Jane Miller
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    Former CEO of Rudi’s Organic Bakery
  • David Kyle
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    Former COO at Calvert Foundation & Acumen Fund
  • Will Seamans
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    Former Chief of Staff of Teach For America
  • George Deriso
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    Created and exited nine technology startups
  • Jim Thaller
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    Senior agribusiness marketing advisor at the World Bank
  • Nancy Gaines
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    Business Productivity Expert
  • Ray Weston
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    VP of International Business at Yum Brands
  • Jamie Van Leeuwen
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    Senior Advisor to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper
  • Rustin Coburn
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    Director of New Business & Strategy
  • Alan Lewis
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    Director at Natural Grocers
  • Mark Moore
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    Founder & CEO, MANA Nutrition
  • Shannon Scott
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    Director of Training, Lucky’s Market
  • Robert Ybarra
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    Director of Produce, Lowe’s Pay and Save
  • Adam Schlegel
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    Co-Founder, Snooze AM Eatery
  • Kate Brown
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    Founder, Boulder Organic Foods
  • Lindsay Saperstone
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    Head of the Denver Healthy Corner Store Initiative
  • Alex Hanifin
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    CEO, Alpine Start
  • Anne Misak
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    Co-chair for the Denver Sustainable Food Policy Council

Frequently Asked Questions

How did the Food Access Project come to be?

The City and County of Denver, Office of Economic Development is committed to helping eradicate food deserts across the city, and has partnered with the Unreasonable Institute to identify and support promising entrepreneurs working to increase healthy food access.

Why food deserts?

Access to healthy food is not just a health issue—it’s a social justice issue.  Millions of Americans live in low-income areas, far from a supermarket and with limited access to transportation. Long-term limited access to healthy foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, leads to dangerous health issues, such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular issues.  Ending food deserts will mean collaboration between governments and businesses to ensure that all citizens have access to healthy food, not as a luxury but as a right.  The solution to food deserts may look different across communities, but we’re starting in Denver, in our own backyard.  Our hope is that what we learn here can help end food deserts nation-wide.

What kinds of organizations does this program support?

The Food Access Project supports early-stage ventures with the potential to increase access to healthy food for low-income communities at scale.  We are open to all ideas and models for doing that!

Does this program support for-profits and non-profits?

Yes! Our goal is increase access to healthy food in Denver, and are open to any route to get there. But all applicants must have some source of revenue beyond donations.

Do I have to be based in Denver, CO to apply?

No, but your venture needs to either currently work in Denver, or be committed to working in Denver in the future.  Not all of your venture’s revenues need to be generated in Denver, but of the revenues you do generate in Denver, a majority (51%) need to come from serving low-income neighborhoods (e.g., Westwood, Montbello, Northeast Park Hill, Globeville, Elyria, Swansea, and Five Points).

How many ventures will be selected?

We expect to accept 10 ventures into the program.

What is the cost of attending this program for participating organizations?

Thanks to the generosity of our partners and sponsors, the program will be completely free for the 10 selected ventures. We will also provide flights and accommodations for the 5-day bootcamp for out-of-town ventures (i.e., those not based in Colorado).

Where will the program take place?

The in-person bootcamp will take place in Denver between September 18-22, 2017.  The selected ventures will receive additional remote support before and after the bootcamp, including from mentors and Financial Architects (pro bono consultants to help you prepare your financials and get investment ready).

How are mentors chosen for the program?

According to Tim Ferriss, an entrepreneur should ignore most of the advice he or she hears. However, the best advice will come from those that have done what that entrepreneur aspires to do at the scale at which they aspire to do it.

Therefore, we look for mentors who have either (1) successfully increased access to healthy food for low-income US populations or (2) who have mastered critical skills that our chosen organizations can learn from. Altogether, we aim to convene around 20 mentors at the in-person bootcamp portion of the Food Access Project, taking place in Denver between September 18-22, 2017.


The Unreasonable Institute exists to find the world’s most promising entrepreneurs tackling the toughest social and environmental problems of our time, and get them the resources and support they need to scale their solutions.  So far, we have worked with over 530 startups, who are working in 94 countries and have benefitted more than 24 million lives across the globe.

We also have an amazing team of partners working together to pull off this program, including the City and County of Denver, Office of Economic Development. We’re excited to reveal everyone who is supporting this initiative soon!

Contact Us

Email Laura Schwecherl, Director of Marketing for Unreasonable Institute, and she'll get back to you as soon as she can!

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