Speaker Duran, Senator Coram, and Community Champions Honored at LiveWell’s Annual Day of Advocacy

It has been a tumultuous year in politics for Colorado and the rest of the U.S. Major federal policy shifts and fierce budget debates in our state have many Coloradans feeling anxious about the future of the country.

It’s important now more than ever for citizens to understand their government and how to advocate for their communities’ concerns. Against this backdrop, we recently hosted our annual LiveWell Day at the Capitol, bringing community champions for healthy eating and active living (HEAL) from across the state to meet with legislators and learn about the issues impacting Colorado.

Julie George, LiveWell’s director of policy for physical activity, got the day started with an Advocacy 101 presentation that covered a range of topics from  how policy proposals become laws to how citizens’ voices can be heard. LiveWell’s Terri Livermore, director of policy for food access, and Charlie Severance-Medaris, policy coordinator, led the advocacy 201 presentation detailing how lawmakers find compromise and the particular budget and policymaking challenges facing Colorado.

The event continued at the state capitol, where LiveWell staff helped attendees connect with their legislators to advocate for issues impacting their communities. This is one of the most valuable parts of the day, according to Livermore: “I see my role at LiveWell as helping people understand the system so they can use their voices to do this work.”

The main event kicked off at noon with a networking luncheon with legislators and community members, followed by the formal program and awards ceremony. LiveWell CEO Gabriel Guillaume highlighted the core values behind LiveWell’s policy agenda, remarking, “It’s important that people in this state, and this building in particular, understand that not everyone has equal access to things that make Colorado one of the healthiest states in the nation.”

Liza Marron, director of the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition, illuminated one example of what can happen when communities are empowered with the necessary resources to tackle the issues they face. Her community-led coalition leveraged its initial LiveWell funding to become an “economic powerhouse” with nine staff and a $9 million foot print. The coalition now operates the Farmers’ Market, provides health education, and participates in local food policy work. Liza was later joined on stage by Rep. Donald Valdez, from the San Luis Valley, who highlighted the need for continued community engagement to preserve the valley’s rich agricultural history and continue SLVLFC’s work of bringing local fruits and vegetables to schools and dinner tables.

Katie Baldassar and Eudelia Contreras of Lake County Build a Generation provided additional success stories. Their Leadville-based coalition has leveraged millions of dollars to build new playgrounds for Lake County schools, lead community organizing efforts, and run a youth leadership development program. The duo also highlighted their involvement with state policy changes impacting the rights of mobile home park tenants to organize and advocate, an issue they took up after research showed that 45 percent of Leadville’s students live in mobile home parks outside the city.

Finally, Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran and Senator Don Coram came to the podium to receive our 2017 Legislative Excellence Award, which recognize legislators who went above and beyond to address barriers to healthy eating and active living in their communities.

Speaker Duran has been an incredible advocate in promoting the Double Up Food Bucks Program which provides incentives for SNAP participants to purchase Colorado grown fruits and vegetables. She has also played a pivotal role in pushing for funding options for multimodal transportation infrastructure including biking and walking. Speaker Duran highlighted her passion for the issue, saying, “We shouldn’t just be focused on moving more cars; we should focus on moving more people.”

Senator Don Coram has also been a proponent for the health of Coloradans. After accepting his award, Senator Coram said, “You have to come here with idea of doing the right thing. Not always the easy thing, but always the right thing.”

Both Senator Coram and Speaker Duran are sponsors of HB 1192 which will connect Colorado farmers to resources to sell their products to low-income residents and schools in Colorado.