Montrose is a city of 19,132 people, and Olathe a town of 1,849 (US Census Bureau, 2010). This area is part of the Western Slope’s “bread belt” with 1,045 farms. Montrose County School District RE-1J enrolls 6,294 students, and has a 59% free/reduced lunch rate, with over 70% in three of the six elementary schools. Demographically, the county population majority is white, with 20% being Hispanic but soaring to 48% in Olathe (U.S Census Bureau, 2010). The Hispanic majority is first generation immigrants from Mexico, with a small pocket of Cora families, a linguistically-distinct group from the Nayarit State in Mexico (Perez, 2012). Montrose County is a retirement destination, with 18% of its residents over age 65, higher than Colorado’s 11% rate (SRDC, 2011).
The overweight and obesity rates in Montrose and Olathe are no better than state averages (Montrose County, 55.2% vs. Colorado, 55.3%), and in some cases worse (Montrose Head Start children, 31% vs. Colorado children 26%). The rates of homelessness and unemployment have risen, the median household income lags significantly behind the state average, and in less than 5 years the number of SNAP recipients has increased by 54% and food bank recipients by 48%. Montrose has a sizable senior population and Olathe a sizable migrant population, with both groups being at risk for health disparities. Conversely, there are unprecedented opportunities that will contribute to successful health interventions. Citizen and non-profit groups are asking for healthier, more affordable foods, such as more nutritious food bank boxes and community gardens. And Montrose citizens recently rallied in support of a new multipurpose recreation center through a sales tax initiative that narrowly lost the vote but indicated the need for active community infrastructure, and revealed a near-majority who was willing to raise taxes to do it. This was notable given the economic and political times.
LiveWell Montrose Olathe will be led by the GHC Coalition in conjunction with the Valley Food Partnership (VFP), under the fiscal sponsorship of the Montrose Community Foundation. The VFP has 40+ members who represent farmers, institutional buyers, Farmers Market organizers, and other individuals actively working on food marketing and distribution, as well as labor and regulation issues. The GHC coalition consists of 25 agencies, including recreation and school districts, health care and public health agencies, non-profit and faith-based agencies, city and town officials, and education institutions.