Role: Community Food Systems Program Coordinator, Western Colorado Research Center
How are you connected to Spur?
In my role at WCRC, I have seen the value of connecting the CSU research center to the community through food. We grow a lot of food as a part of our agricultural research and our vocational training program for emerging farmers. I ensure that as a public institution, the food we grow benefits our community by directing that food to food pantries, food banks, nutrition education programs, and public schools (aka the community food system). This has connected us to the broader community, allowing us to tell our bigger CSU story of how to create new knowledge, provide education and serve our community. This has also given us the opportunity to connect other CSU researchers and students to local issues through community-engaged research/scholarship and internships. I believe this model is transferable to other research centers across the state, including METRO/Spur.
When did you get involved with Spur and why is it important to you?
I became involved in Spur programming in 2018. The rates of food insecurity in urban and rural areas are roughly equivalent. However, the relationship between food and urban communities is much different than in rural communities. Spur represents an opportunity to change that relationship, but for it to be effective, education around food production has to be relatable. Nothing is more relatable than actually eating food that you saw produced. So at the minimum, I think it is important Spur helps serve the local community’s food needs by directing the food through the community food system. But there is also a tremendous opportunity for researchers, scholars, and students at Spur to learn from and contribute towards the incredible energy around responding to food insecurity that is happening in Denver (Hunger Free Colorado, Nourish, Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger, Colorado Health Foundation, etc).
What outcomes have you seen or do you expect from work at Spur?
We are still working on building out a community liaison position who will be responsible for connecting Spur to the community food system to support fresh food access, nutrition education, and reduce any cultural or physical barriers of the local community to fully access the opportunities at Spur. The research/scholarship program is pending. Overall, I hope that the Community Food Systems program at Spur will ensure that all Spur programming will be filtered through a lens of “how is this work/program/service improving people’s access to healthy food?”
What would you like others to know about Spur?
There needs to be a recognition that for a lot of people, their relationship with food is one of scarcity and stress. Romantic farm photos and new age demonstrations of food production could ring hollow for underserved communities struggling with food insecurity. Spur has an opportunity to demonstrate that CSU cares about improving everyone’s well-being through research/scholarship/engagement in food production.