Seize the Opportunity: Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger

Yesterday, the Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger was released. It would be remiss not to thank the Colorado Health Foundation for their key role. They have been a steadfast funder of work to improve access to healthy food for a number of years, and now they’re taking on the issue of hunger even more by convening, staffing, leading, and funding the Blueprint’s development.

Most who have engaged in the Blueprint creation and today’s launch event are not only aware of the issue of hunger but interested in learning more about how we can work together to achieve a shared vision.

The Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger is a strong beginning; a tool for turning vision into strategy. Now the onus is on all of us to seize this opportunity.

I truly believe hunger in Colorado is a completely solvable issue. It’s like a Rubik’s cube—we must turn the programs and policies in the right order and in the correct direction to solve it. The public and political will is the energy which turns the cube.

At the release event, I was asked to discuss how we can build that will and galvanize that energy into action. The great news is that our statewide voter poll, which has been conducted every three years since 2010, continues to uncover the same clear insight: Hunger is a nonpartisan issue with widespread support.  Voters of all stripes want stronger programs with increased efficiency to address and eradicate hunger. And, there is broad support for investing in public and private programs.

This polling demonstrates the immense opportunity to build the public and political will needed to achieve the Blueprint goals. To harness that energy, we will need to be focused and strategic, and we’ll need to stick together.

We must aim for more than general awareness and basic understanding. Data alone cannot do this, and neither will platitudes. We will need concrete and actionable steps that people from all sectors across the state will feel compelled to take.

But, we need to ask ourselves what does it really mean for Coloradans to engage and take action, whether you’re a third-generation rancher on the Eastern Plains, a young family on the Western Slope, or a newcomer to Denver?

When I think about such a question, here are some things that stand out for me:

  • We must call to attention to the idea  that hunger is an “everything issue.” Whatever else a person may care about—health, education, the environment, or our economy—it is all tied to hunger.
  • We need to remember that, while we all may care about hunger, there’s a difference in perspective and approach to solving it.
  • We must hold our elected officials, regardless of political affiliation, accountable to working towards a hunger-free Colorado.
  • And, we need more people who are directly impacted by hunger, engaged in our collective work. They, by far, are the best spokespeople and the real-life experts on this issue. (For example, see HungerThroughMyLens.org.)

I have confidence that we can move the needle on hunger in Colorado, because while the Blueprint is new, we’ve been at this for a while.

Colorado was once 44th in the nation for providing kids with school breakfast, but with statewide-leadership; dedicated school nutrition directors; private and public-sector partners; and a focused, five-year campaign to end childhood hunger, Colorado is now 12th in the nation and our strategies have been replicated in other states. We’re serving more summer meals and connecting more people to food resources than ever before. And, although we have a ways to go with food stamps (federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP), it’s 180 degrees from where it was eight years ago, thanks to the hard work of the state and counties.

This all gives me hope, and it gives me confidence that we can and will continue to make progress towards a future where no Coloradan goes hungry.

The Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger represents a new opportunity to solve this issue. So, let’s direct that energy into action and get to work!

 

Kathy Underhill
CEO
Hunger Free Colorado

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