The 2016 election has come to a close, which – for policy organizations like LiveWell – means looking ahead to the 2017 legislative session here in Colorado as well as in Washington D.C. You can read LiveWell’s takeaways on the election successes in Colorado for healthy eating and active living here. In 2017, we will be working on many important issues facing our elected leaders that will affect the health of our kids, communities, and state, some of which are outlined below. Sign up for action alerts from LiveWell Colorado to stay informed on what actions our government is taking and to receive urgent action alerts to help inform their decisions.
Food and Nutrition Assistance
LiveWell is committed to increasing access to healthy fruits and vegetables for low-income Coloradans. For the last year and a half, LiveWell Colorado has met with representatives from the Colorado Departments of Agriculture, Education, Public Health, and Human Services, the Governor’s office, and the Colorado Food Systems Advisory Council (COFSAC) on a proposal that would combine COFSAC with the Farm to School Task Force to form a strong foundation from which a statewide coordinator would work on connecting agricultural producers to food and nutrition assistance programs, promote and provide technical assistance to farm-to-school programs, and work with partners around the state to develop and implement a statewide food and agriculture plan.
This statewide coordinator would be tasked with helping direct markets – such as farmers markets – coordinate with producers and state agencies to be able to accept food assistance benefits, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infant and Children (WIC). Currently, both SNAP and WIC are operated out of different state departments, and farmers markets and other small retailers have very few resources if they need help getting the technology needed to accept SNAP and WIC cards or to become authorized for SNAP and WIC sales.
Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act
Every five years, Congress must vote to reauthorize child nutrition programs. These programs include the federal school lunch and breakfast programs as well as the summer meals program, WIC, and many others. The current House version of this bill would block grant funding to the states for these programs, which would dramatically reduce funding for these programs during an economic downturn or if caseloads increased. Last year, LiveWell Colorado was part of a coalition that rallied to “block the block” and defeated this measure. Given the election results, it is likely we’ll need your help again as the new Congress takes up this issue.
Congress is expected to begin conversations in 2017 to craft the next farm bill, which authorizes many federal food and agricultural provisions, including SNAP. LiveWell will work with our national partners to secure continued or increased funding for programs that ensure access to healthy food for food-insecure populations. We also hope to see increased support for farmers to sell to low-income populations and for the production and distribution of healthy foods.
Westwood Recreation Center
In the fall of 2015, members of Westwood Unidos, a resident-led coalition in Denver’s Westwood neighborhood, approached LiveWell Colorado for assistance in establishing a community recreation center in Westwood.
The neighborhood, located between Federal and Sheridan Boulevards just west of I-25, has one of the highest rates of obesity in Denver and is one of only a handful of neighborhoods not to have a public recreation center. LiveWell is working with Westwood Unidos to advocate that the city include a rec center as part of the 2017 bond proposal that will be put before voters next November.
Transportation Funding Measure
Democrats and Republicans didn’t agree on much during the election, at either the state or federal level. However, both parties agree that finding a solution to fund Colorado’s aging transportation infrastructure must be a top priority in 2017. Under the current funding paradigm, no transportation dollars are reserved explicitly for walking and biking infrastructure, which contributes to a lack of safe and accessible sidewalks, crosswalks and road shoulders in many Colorado communities. A clear example of this dilemma can be seen in several of our newly-built transit stops that are not easily accessed by pedestrians and bicyclists. We refer to this as first and last mile connectivity and it is a very important aspect of improving access to active transportation. LiveWell will be an active voice in conversations around Colorado’s transportation needs in order to ensure that walking, biking and transit infrastructure shortfalls are addressed.