Growing Partners of Southwest Colorado, Healthy Lifestyle La Plata and Southwest Colorado Farm-to-School are three coalitions and/or working groups who strive to support a sustainable local and healthy food system. The Garden Project is a working members of these three groups and strongly supports their mission and efforts to build a healthier food system for our community.
Growing Partners of Southwest Colorado
Growing Partners began as a collaborative effort between five service and non-profit organizations dedicated to implementing a sustainable local food program that reaches all incomes, ages and cultures. In 2005, the founding partners included The Garden Project of Southwest Colorado, Southern Ute Community Action Program, La Boca Center for Sustainability, Turtle Lake Refuge, and Southwest Marketing Network.
In 2007, Growing Partners of Southwest Colorado published a community food assessment report. The Garden Project served as the lead agency during the food assessment. The La Plata County Community Food Assessment began in October of 2005 and the final report was made public in February of 2007.
It consists of nearly 500 voices, representing 35 farmers and ranchers, 36 non-profit and service agencies, 36 restaurants, 13 grocers, 100 youth, 25 schools and 5 medical and nutritional experts. The assessment covered agriculture - its history and its future, obstacles and challenges; regional food resources - charitable food programs, farmers’ markets and community gardens; school food programs - school lunch, school gardens and Farm-to-School; food insecurity - its definition and impact; and finally, community food projects and their ability to address the issues in each of these areas.
Based on the findings in the assessment, it is clear La Plata County suffers from economic and social disparities that affect access to local, fresh, affordable, culturally-appropriate foods, produced in ways that are sustainable. On a positive note, it was revealed through the assessment that our demand for local food continues to be strong from not only consumers, but retail owners, restaurant owners, and school food services. The food assessment helped The Garden Project, along with others, to design programs that represent a community voice. For the complete report visit www.sustainableswcolorado.org/cfa.htm
Since the food assessment was released, Growing Partners has grown in its partnerships to include Los Companeros, Fort Lewis College Environmental Center, and the Unity Coalition of La Plata County. Growing Partners has since applied for a substantial grant to the USDA Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program to support the many partners and their collaborative effort to support local food systems.
Healthy Lifestyle La Plata and Healthy Local Foods Committee
The mission of Healthy Lifestyle La Plata is to empower and support Durango and La Plata County in becoming an interconnected community where citizens and visitors have access to affordable, local, nutritious and culturally appropriate food and are empowered to live a healthy, active and sustainable lifestyle.
Healthy Lifestyle La Plata (HLLP) is a coalition of health & wellness professionals who are working to create a healthy, active and sustainable community for its citizens and many visitors. It is comprised of three subcommittee’s, each with a specific wellness focus – Healthy Local Foods, Worksite Wellness and Active Community Environment.
The Healthy Local Foods committee is dedicated to working with restaurants, grocers, schools, farmers, ranchers and food distributors on a consumer education campaign to support the use of healthy, local foods for all La Plata County residents. Major contributions of the HLLP Local Food’s Committee include: supporting local Farm to School efforts in Durango, Bayfield and Ignacio, Farm to Chef Speed Dating, Iron Chef 2008, Tour de Farms 2007 and 2008, and supporting The Garden Project’s school and garden efforts.
Since 2007, The Garden Project has received substantial support from HLLP and its partnership with Live Well Colorado. Their support has helped expand school and community gardening efforts in La Plata County.
Southwest Colorado Farm-to-School
The purpose of the SW Colorado Farm-to-School group is to ensure that our Pre-K through College students consume the highest quality, sustainably produced, culturally appropriate foods from local farms and ranches. Activities to reach this include: getting local food into schools (as single products in a pilot program, as special event local meals, or as an ongoing part of the menu); ensuring nutritious food whatever the source (in school meals, special events, and vending machines); and supporting food and agriculture education (nutrition education in the classroom, cooking demos, farm trips, school gardens, etc.).