By Jesse Hulling, Nourish Colorado Project Specialist
Nourish Colorado kicked off 2023 with a fly-in to Washington D.C. Our team has now returned from an invigorating and impactful week. As many of you who are aligned and familiar with our work know, we advocate for systemic changes in the Colorado food system. This translates into strategic partnerships and work with policy leaders, state and federal legislators, statewide coalitions, and national associations like the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and others. We were thrilled to travel to the nation’s capital to connect with our delegation and strategic partners. Read on and watch the photo reel of staff pictures highlighting our professional development trip!
We found ourselves in D.C. at an opportunistic time for the upcoming farm bill which was enacted in 2018 and is set to expire in 2023. For those newer to food systems, the farm bill is one of the largest federal bill packages and has a tremendous impact on farming livelihoods, how food is grown, what kinds of foods are grown, and how food makes its way to which people. We encourage our readers to familiarize themselves more with the farm bill and the countless realms of the food system that it encompasses. We learned quickly during our time in D.C. that timing is critical when it comes to advocacy and policy work. We found ourselves with a golden opportunity to meet with key stakeholders and federal representatives to advocate on crucial issues pertaining to our farm bill priorities.
As an organization, we made the remarkable decision to invite our whole staff on this professional development trip and some core partners and community members to come along as well – including Ms. Andrea Loudd, Community Food Navigator, and Sabra Lovejoy a teacher and farmer from Campo, CO with her two teenage sons.
The results were astonishing and left our team feeling encouraged, inspired, informed, thankful, powerful, confident, and exhausted. We were provided with a fuller picture of the importance and tedious nature of policy work. We are pleased to report that we were able to meet with the following offices: Representative Jason Crow, Representative Joe Neguse, Representative Ken Buck, Representative Yadira Caraveo, Representative Brittany Pettersen, Senator Bennet, and Senator Hickenlooper. We were grateful to all these offices for making the time to see us and listen to our team as we shared passionately the prevalent issues pertaining to the Colorado food system. We extend a special shout-out to Rep. Caraveo and Rep. Pettersen for the memorable experience of having us as their first official meetings in their new roles.
We were given the immense privilege of an extended meeting with over a dozen agency staff from the USDA and were able to discuss ways we partner and to lay out key issues that we see in our local communities. We toured the DC Central Kitchen and met with Senator Stabenow’s office from Michigan whose state has laid out a beautiful blueprint for Double Up Food Bucks which currently operates in Colorado. We dined at Founding Farmers, visited museums, and soaked in all the sights.
Overall, we wanted to express appreciation for our partners who live in D.C. and are fighting on the front lines of policy in creating a more just food system. We departed D.C. feeling energized and with a greater sense of unity and solidarity among our staff and partners. We were encouraged by the reminder that there are many food justice warriors, changemakers, and community members across the country advocating for those who are most marginalized.
Our team members are nutrition benefit participants, chefs, parents, advocates, and many with deeply lived experience in this work, but had never experienced policy work or met with delegates prior to our visit to D.C.. Policy for many of us was a distant abstract concept that doesn’t always connect with the communities that we serve. We left with the reminder that policy work is grounded in community and accomplished through listening to the voices that we work alongside. It is both scary and humbling knowing that our work is rooted in community and our work exists to help those whose voices have been silenced. It’s so easy for policy to be done in a vacuum, but this is why we engaged our whole team and key partners.
As one of our staff members so accurately summed it up, “This trip exceeded my imagination.” We are feeling encouraged and refreshed as we continue our fight in transforming food systems and fulfilling our mission where all Coloradoans have equitable access to fresh, nutritious foods. To all our supporters, partners, and allies, thank you for all your support as we turn our attention to the farm bill and continue to deepen this work in 2023.
To stay involved in our policy work, join our Food Bill Action Team (FBAT)! On our next special, extended FBAT meeting on Thursday, January 26 from 2:00-3:00 pm, we will share reflections, tips, takeaways, and some next steps from our team trip to D.C. We hope to see you there!