Citizens of Denver could sell their homegrown produce and some homemade food items under a proposed change to the city's zoning code.

Backers say the initiative would improve nutrition in areas without nearby grocery stores, known as "food deserts."

"We do have neighborhoods in Denver that are food deserts, where people don't have access to nutritious foods," said Denver City Councilwoman Robin Kniech, who is spearheading the proposal.

A fringe benefit would be economic development on an individual scale.

"In this economy, any chance for families to make a little extra income would be a positive," Kniech said.

Jeremy Zeitlin, right, co-owner of Happy Leaf Kombucha, a Denver brewery, provides a sample of fermented tea to a customer at the Denver Urban Homesteading
Jeremy Zeitlin, right, co-owner of Happy Leaf Kombucha, a Denver brewery, provides a sample of fermented tea to a customer at the Denver Urban Homesteading farmers market. (Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post)

The amendment would allow residents to sell from their homes uncut fruits and vegetables, whole eggs, and home-prepared food products such as jellies, jams, honey, teas, herbs, spices and some baked goods.

Amending the zoning code would put Denver in conformance with the Colorado Cottage Foods Act, a bill passed by the state legislature in 2012. The legislation allowed commercial sales of food prepared in home kitchens. Previously, those foods had to be made in commercial kitchens.

Arvada and Wheat Ridge have similar ordinances.

Kniech said she has heard from hundreds of people supporting the proposed Denver amendment, and said she is not aware of any organized opposition. The scope of sales would be too small, she said, to threaten grocery stores.

Denver Urban Homesteading owner James Bertini said he was encouraged by the proposed ordinance. In addition to selling local goods and training people in backyard agriculture, he hosts an indoor farmers market Saturdays in the Art District on Santa Fe.

"Backyard farming is a good thing, in general," he said. "This might encourage people to grow a bigger garden and maybe they could sell here."

In addition to nutritional and economic benefits, Kniech touts a less-tangible factor — more social interaction among neighbors.

"When people talk to each other, the community bond is better," she said.

Under the proposed zoning amendment, home-based vendors could post a small sign, measuring no more than 100 square inches. Sales could take place from portable furniture such as folding tables, but not from permanent stands. Each home's sales would be limited to $5,000 a year per food item.

The amendment does not allow the sale of marijuana or products made with marijuana.

The proposal will be presented to the Denver City Council's Land Use, Transportation & Infrastructure Committee on Tuesday.

Nutrition advocacy groups LiveWell Denver and the Denver Sustainable Food Policy Council are pushing for the amendment's passage.

"It's intended to be very neighborhood-centric," said Sustainable Food Policy Council co-chairwoman Shannon Spurlock. "It's a good way to increase healthy food access and to promote economic development. More people growing their own food is always a positive thing."

Steve Raabe: 303-954-1948, sraabe@denverpost.com or twitter.com/steveraabedp