by Jamie Shapiro, Downtown Colorado, Inc., Rural Outreach Specialist
One of the most difficult challenges for rural Colorado communities, one that Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) sees again and again, is the small size of municipal staff. In rural communities throughout the state, professional staff work tirelessly to help their communities. With limited time and a multitude of projects, it can be impossible for staff to tackle new projects or expand their efforts.
With this challenge in mind, and with the experience of having hosted a VISTA for the last three years, DCI set out to establish its own VISTA team for rural Colorado. This year, DCI is launching Downtown Capacity Builders, a team of VISTAs placed in rural communities, dedicated to downtown revitalization efforts. Host communities throughout Central and Southern Colorado are, as we speak, working hard to prepare for the VISTAs, who will begin their work in April, 2016.
AmeriCorps VISTA, envisioned as the domestic Peace Corps, began in 1965. VISTAs, or Volunteers in Service to America, dedicate one year to working full time for a non-profit or small public agency to build capacity of that organization, so that it can better meet community needs. VISTAs are typically young and college educated, and through their service gain valuable career skills in the nonprofit and public sector. They are paid a living stipend throughout their time.
As a former VISTA, I can attest to the powerful community of VISTAs and VISTA Supervisors, and the incredible opportunity afforded by such an experience. DCI could not be more proud to be launching this time. Hopefully the enthusiasm and time of a full time VISTA our partner communities will see their time management worries decrease and their projects grow and expand.
For more information on the Community Capacity Building program and how it can help your community, please contact Jamie Shapiro by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call DCI at 303-282-0625 with any questions.
Jamie Shapiro previously served as DCI’s AmeriCorps VISTA. He is currently pursuing a masters in Historic Preservation from the University of Colorado Denver.
by Michael Booth, editor and chief, Health Elevations
When it comes to the monumental task of changing Americans’ unhealthy diets, researcher Lori Dorfman likes to say, “Information is necessary but not sufficient.”
Few things make the point better than Dorfman’s favorite New Yorker cartoon. A doctor stands before a grieving, newly widowed woman in the intensive care unit’s waiting room. “I was able,” the doctor says unhelpfully, “to get in one last lecture about diet and exercise.”
Speaking to a full house at the 2014 Colorado Health Symposium at Keystone, Dorfman described the relentless fast-food messages consumers are bombarded with in her own Berkeley, Calif., and every other city in the country.
Doctors in Colorado towns bisected by highways and pockmarked by billboards have said the same thing: Right after leaving a doctor’s office lecture about high-fat, high-sugar foods, the patient will drive a road crammed with signs for Dairy Queen and Burger King and Dunkin’ Donuts and Pizza Hut.
“People in those environments don’t have the power of control … ” Lori Dorfmam
“People in those environments don’t have the power of control … ” Lori Dorfmam
“Education can’t compete,” argued Dorfman, who takes the proximity issue a step further: She shows a picture of a double-decker billboard – on top is an anti-obesity message from the California public health department; directly below it is a smiling woman holding bags from McDonald’s.
“The assumption is that we have an information gap, and if we just fill that gap, people will be healthier,” she added. Maybe the big idea shouldn’t be personal change, Dorfman said, but policy change.
The switch in point of view comes by recognizing that the problem is not an information gap, but a power gap, said Dorfman, a Ph.D. in public health who teaches communication at University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health. The burgeoning sugar-control movement at local and state levels across the country is in part a realization that advertising overwhelms consumer willpower. The modern citizen may need a civil intervention on his or her behalf to get breathing room to make better choices.
Thus the attempts at putting a “sugar tax” on sodas, flavored drinks and other snack foods; and New York City’s attempt to limit the size of such sodas in the Big Gulp era.
This new angle recognizes, Dorfman explained, that “people in those environments don’t have the power of control over that environment, and public policy can help them create and find that power.”
Until now, the message dominant for so long has been the one about personal responsibility and individual, inward-focused action, she said. “You are what you eat,” is the oldest example. People have gained too much weight because of bad choices, and if only they exercised more willpower – and exercised, period – then the problem would be solved.
It’s not that the old message is false, Dorfman noted. It’s just inadequate when competing daily against the mass marketing of appealing junk food.
“Both of these can be true at once, and both of them are true at once,” she said. But we as a society are out of balance in how we tell stories about these things, she added. In addition to getting better information about eating and exercise choices, Dorfman said, it’s time for “consumers” to become “citizens” and to hear how public policy on nutrition and the built environment could bring more rapid change.
“It’s not either-or, but only one kind of story is getting told right now,” she said.
Michael Booth is managing editor of Health Elevations, a quarterly journal for The Colorado Health Foundation, devoted to identifying and promoting best practices in health and health care in Colorado. Booth is a former health care writer for The Denver Post and has covered health, medicine, health policy and politics throughout his twenty five-year journalism career.
by Erin Lyng, Progressive Urban Management Associates (P.U.M.A.)
When Ignacio’s only grocery store closed in 2014, two local families, the Lees and McClanahans, sought support from the Colorado Fresh Food Financing Fund (CO4F) to help bring fresh food back to their community. On October 3, 2015, Farmers Fresh Market celebrated its grand opening. The store employs more than 40 people.
“Being longtime area residents and business owners, we knew how important this new store would be to our town. The CO4F financing helped bring Farmers Fresh Market to life, and it’s gratifying to provide our shoppers with a variety of fresh food options” said Amos Lee, the store’s general manager.
Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) awarded a $408,000 loan on behalf of CO4F to support the store build. The CO4F loan was used to provide part of the construction financing, in partnership with Vectra Bank of Colorado’s Durango office, and to provide permanent financing. CO4F is a public-private partnership loan and grant fund. It was created in 2013 to finance grocery stores and other forms of healthy food retail in underserved communities throughout Colorado.
CO4F Financing Uses Can Include:
“Grocery retail is at the heart of a community. In addition to improving food access and economic conditions, a local grocer provides social advantages such as a sense of belonging among residents”, said Erica Heller with Progressive Urban Management Associates (P.U.M.A.), who provides outreach and technical assistance for CO4F borrowers.
If you are interested in learning more about CO4F, please contact Erin Lyng atCO4F@pumaworldhq.com, 720-519-0535; Tim Dolan at email@example.com, 303.297.7318 or visit www.chfainfo.com/co4f.
Erin Lyng is an associate with P.U.M.A., providing market research, communications, and project assistance to P.U.M.A’s health community, economic development and downtown strategic planning initiatives.