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Food Equity Coalition wraps first Spanish language Community Empowerment Program

Leadership, community focus of nine-session work group
The Good Food Collective Community Empowerment Coordinator Beatriz Garcia-Waddell reads a heartfelt send-off letter to a graduate of the La Plata Food Equity Coalition’s first ever Spanish language Community Empowerment Program on Thursday. (Courtesy of Kate Husted, The Good Food Collective)

The Good Food Collective’s La Plata Food Equity Coalition celebrated its first ever Spanish language Community Empowerment Program on Thursday with a graduation ceremony at the Fort Lewis College Center for Innovation.

Graduates, their friends and their families gathered at the center in the Main Mall in Durango where gratitude, happiness and a sense of community were the dominant themes of the evening.

Beatriz Garcia-Waddell, community empowerment coordinator for The Good Food Collective, led the evening’s festivities, which included a dinner, guest speakers, the presentation of certificates to graduates, and a brainstorming session of ways graduates can go on to become leaders in the community in the areas of mental health, housing and food equity.

La Plata Commissioners Marsha Porter-Norton and Matt Salka and Durango School District 9-R Board member Katie Stewart (who announced her candidacy for Rep. Barbara McLachlan’s seat in the Colorado General Assembly) were in attendance.

The commissioners encouraged graduates to be involved and communicative with local government and to not hesitate to reach out to the county with their questions, concerns and ideas.

“Today we come together to celebrate a significant achievement and the life of all of you,” Garcia-Waddell said. “... (We’re) honoring the dedication, commitment of time and leadership exemplified by the grads.”

She said her strength and confidence aren’t of her sole making, but are from friends, family and the community that supports her, and she stressed the importance of community and how involvement and leadership are key to promoting greater equity.

She encouraged the graduates to reflect on what between mental health, food equity and housing means most to them and what they can have the greatest impact on.

In groups, the graduates addressed the topics and came up with their own solutions. Among needs identified to address mental health for Latinos in Durango and La Plata County were Spanish interpretation services for schools and workers; mental health programs to promote healthy households; and community education and mental health workshops.

Graduates also recognized the need for more Latinos and Spanish-speaking people in leadership and administrative roles for more representation across the community.

Stewart, Porter-Norton and The Good Food Collective Director Rachel Landis participated in the brainstorming sessions and lent their expertise to help grads identify existing programs and services across the county.

The Spanish language Community Empowerment Program consisted of nine sessions starting in August and ending earlier in January. It was facilitated by The Good Food Collective’s La Plata Food Equity Coalition in partnership with Conservation Colorado’s Protégete and Climate Justice Leadership Academy.

The academy’s stated mission is “cultivating the next generation of environmental and climate justice leaders” by placing Latin leadership “at the forefront of Colorado environmental and climate policymaking.”

The Food Equity Coalition focuses on a number of community-minded projects, ranging from a food business work group that aims to elevate minority entrepreneurs to language justice and child care.


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