Dear Friends,2012 has been a pivotal year for the LiveWell Alamosa (LWA) initiative.
Even though obesity has not been solved as a public health threat in the community, LiveWell Colorado (LWC) funding has transitioned to the work of the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition (LFC). Valley-Wide Health Systems, Inc. has hosted the LiveWell initiative in the SLV for all these years and has been our biggest supporter - a big thank-you for housing this great program and for all your generous support! I believe this partnership will continue to evolve as we move forward to a new phase as the LFC.
2012 was the seventh year of the LWA initiative and LWC asked LWA to focus on one or two strategies in its final 2012-2013 "advanced implementation" stage. The coalition met and agreed that in this agricultural region, the most energy and opportunity for success surrounded the farm to table strategies. The LFC offered LWC the willingness to accomplish two goals: 1) Establishing the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition as a non-profit; and 2) The creation of a food hub in the community. These two goals were agreed upon and these became the final charges to us by the LWC grantors through 2013. The LWC Executive Board approved the advanced implementation stage in June of 2012 retroactive back to the beginning of the year - talk about being on pins and needles!
Several new faces appeared to accomplish these goals. Luette Frost, while not a new face, offered a new space for our employees to be - sharing her Integrated Nutrition Education office at 613A Fourth Street in Alamosa - Thank-you Luette! Julie Gallegos and then Megan Lehnerd became the first official LFC employees as it registered with the State of Colorado and was under pending non-profit status with the IRS. Julie moved from La Puente (thank-you Lance Cheslock!) to become the Program Director of the LFC. Megan came on board as the Nutrition Director helping to bring the Cooking Matters program officially to the community. After three successful 6-week sessions of the SNAP-Ed funded program, Megan could not pass up a full-ride masters-level scholarship to Tufts University in Boston. Best wishes to Megan and thank-you for everything including a successful Wal-Mart grant! The LFC was soon blessed by the hiring of masters-level Nutrition Educator Elaine Patarini. Her hard work, leadership, wit and progressive ideas have moved the coalition to a better place while increasing the demand for genuine healthy whole food by families in the Valley.Elaine oversaw the new and improved "Healthy Habits" along with a great advisory team. Renee Mackey, Cheryl Stokes and Lisa ter Kuile came on board in the summer to make sure the cooking demonstrations and the produce voucher program sailed smoothly. 6930 produce vouchers were distributed to low income families and the elderly. Of those 4,464 were redeemed and 3,751 samples of in-season SLV produce recipes were shared with the community in Alamosa and La Jara Farmers Markets. The great part of that story is that the funding for the Healthy Habits program came from a South Central Seniors El Pomar award but the majority came entirely from the community for the first time. Thank-you San Luis Valley for the gift of your heart!
Donielle Van Gieson of Key Business Solutions came on board to handle the LFC payroll and tax payments - Thank-you Donielle!The LFC Board served their first year diligently. Thank-you for your service - Trudi Kretsinger - President, Katy Baer - Vice President, James Bird - Treasurer, Meghan Ibach - Secretary, Jay Young, Gena Akers, Karen Lemke-hostess extra-ordinaire, Luette Frost, Elena Miller, and new member Valley Food Coop General Manager Garland McQueen - Welcome.
The Rocky Mountain Prevention Research Center (PRC) continues to be an important community partner. Not only do they implement their own science-based programs promoting healthy eating and plenty of quality physical activity in the schools, they have partnered with the LFC to conduct the third leg of their three-pronged Data Survey. The Health Survey was one of a kind - providing the SLV with new county level health data we have not had before. To correlate with the health data the PRC planned to audit the physical environment and the food environment of those surveyed. Just as the food audit was to be conducted - funding was pulled. Under Reginaldo Garcia's excellent leadership, Shirley Berg's organized support and the in kind donation of the Local Foods Coalition, the Community Gardens and the Food Bank Network of the SLV - the food audit moved forward. The LFC added data that fulfilled its food environment analysis needs and a producer survey was added to the project. This cutting-edge partnership will be written up in an academic journal in 2013 for your reading pleasure!Luette Frost and many others have moved the Polston Vision to the reality of the Rio Grande Healthy Living Park Initiative. The community secured the interest of the City and the County and the revered National Trust for Public Land. If realized - the 32 acres which contained the Polston Elementary Campus and Community Garden for many years could become a food hub for the San Luis Valley region. Community input will complete the make up of the park, however ideas include beginning farmer farm plots, demonstration and production greenhouses, trails to connect East and West Alamosa, a community kitchen and a distribution center and trucks to transport SLV bounty to the schools, stores and institutions of the San Luis Valley. In 2012 eight Guatemalan families, unemployed by the Rhakra Mushroom farm lay-offs, farmed family plots to get through the hard times. Thank-you Alamosa School District - Patrick O'Neill and Alan Simpson for the gift of your land and time to make this possible.
During the harvest season the Valley food service directors came together to look ways of meeting the new nutrition standards and to hear Jim Dyer share ideas on implementing Farm to School. In October several of those food service directors partnered with local farmers to bring fresh SLV produce onto the plates of their students. "Know Your Farmer" flyers were posted so students could have that connection with their community producers. Thank-you to the Food Service Directors of the San Luis Valley - you are the unsung heroes in our school districts working with tiny budgets, piles of regulations and little understanding of what you do and what you are up against.The final story I will tell is humorous at best. The reason the LFC decided to apply for 501-c-3 status with the IRS was because the Alamosa Uptown River Association and Tawney Becker who had been running the Alamosa Farmers Market for years needed to pass the administration of the market to someone else. The LFC applied and was awarded the stewardship of the market. Many people worked on the application to the IRS. It was submitted in December of 2011. In August of 2012 we got our first letter asking for lots of information mainly about the farmers market. The second letter in September demanded that the LFC create a resolution stating it would not run the farmers market. Upon doing so, our status was awarded. So now we find ourselves in an interesting place. The market is under the Community Greenhouse as a fiscal sponsor for the time being and the management is by an independent ad hoc board. Hopefully the 2013 LFC report will reveal a stunning solution to this conundrum. The LFC is working with the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, the Colorado Farmers Market Association and anyone else who will listen to come up with a plan for sustainability for all farmers markets in the Valley.
Thank-you to all the wonderful folks who were not named in this email.
A coalition is just that - a collection of passionate people who donate the gift of their time, their resources and their hearts to make this world a healthier and more just place. The LFC Coalition is part of a greater movement on the planet towards health, re-generation and sustainability.
We are all Living Well because of it.