by Eric Galatas
It’s been just over a year since Colorado leaders came together to create a blueprint to end hunger in the state, and innovators in the remote San Luis Valley are leading the way.
From doubling food stamp dollars at markets and grocery stores, to helping small farmers deliver fresh produce to school cafeterias, restaurants and food pantries, Liza Marrón, founding director with the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition, says the building blocks of a sustainable network that everyone can access are falling into place.
“So we’re trying to create an equitable local food system – that’s our mission – that restores the health of the people, the community, the economy and the eco-system. We’re getting down to the root cause and we are lessening the occurrence of food insecurity in our communities,” says Marrón.
The coalition has helped secure land for migrant farmers to grow their own food when there’s no paid work available, and for new farmers to hone their skills. They’ve also developed a region-wide food hub, which works with some 60 small family farms to deliver food to retail outlets.
“There’s people without vehicles, there’s elderly. It’s really a chore to get into a grocery store, some might open at 8 a.m., close at 6 p.m. If you work on a ranch or something, you have a hard time accessing a grocery store.”
The coalition’s bilingual Cooking Matters program also teaches residents how to transform local produce into tasty dinners.
Marrón says lack of access to nutritious food, especially for low-income people and communities of color, can produce significant negative health effects. She believes processed foods with high fat and sugar content available at gas stations and convenience stores in the valley are significant contributors to the region’s disproportionately higher rates for obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Marrón adds people who live in town tend to have easier access.
“However, many people live in rural areas. There’s people without vehicles, there’s elderly. It’s really a chore to get into a grocery store, some might open at 8 a.m., close at 6 p.m.,” says Marron. “If you work on a ranch or something, you have a hard time accessing a grocery store.”
Marrón recently received the 2018 Dr. Virgilio Licona Community Health Leadership Award from the Colorado Health Foundation. The award recognizes impassioned Coloradans who are finding innovative and effective strategies to overcoming community health barriers across the state.
For more info: San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition, 412 State Avenue / P.O. Box 181, Alamosa, CO 81101, firstname.lastname@example.org or call 719-937-2319.
Public News Service – CO
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