Marron receives Community Health Leadership Award

VALLEY — On August 1 the Colorado Health Foundation recognized Liza Marron for the 2018 Dr. Virgilio Licona Community Health Leadership Award at the Colorado Health Symposium. This annual award program seeks to recognize Coloradans who are finding innovative and effective strategies to overcoming community health barriers across the state.

The award program is named after the late Dr. Virgilio Licona, who passed in 2016. Dr. Licona worked to improve the health of Coloradans most in need, focusing his expertise as a physician in rural health care delivery and migrant health. A nationally recognized advocate for social justice, he brought a critical voice to some of the most important conversations and decisions related to how we can bring health in reach for all Coloradans.

A true champion for social justice, Liza has relentlessly shined a light on community health issues by raising the voices of those left in the shadows. Throughout her career, Liza has fought to bring health in reach for more Coloradans by working to develop programs and policies that advance food access and security, especially for migrant workers. Of her many successes, Liza has also worked on a mentoring program for asset-challenged youth, that inspired her to become a licensed foster care home, specializing in hard-to-place youth.

Today, as the founding director of the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition (SLVLFC), she is helping to foster an equitable food system that restores the health of the people, community, economy and ecosystem. Key programs and projects underway at SLVLFC include the Valley Roots Food Hub aggregation and distribution enterprise complete with commercial kitchen for value-added production; the Rio Grande Farm Park, a farmer incubator and recreation park; Cooking Matters program that teaches families to cook healthy on a budget; and the San Luis Valley Farm-to-School Task Force.

From 1989 until 1997, Liza worked as an income maintenance technician for the Saguache County Department of Social Services. In this role, she improved conditions for clients, specifically migrant workers who were subjected to standing in long lines while waiting for food stamp interviews. She worked to change the policy so that doors would open at 8 a.m., allowing workers to get to their job in the fields on time, ultimately helping them to thrive and live healthy, productive lives.

Following her time at the department, Liza oversaw a promising youth mentoring program, Pilots for Prevention, based at Center-consolidated Schools. Until 2005, she worked to establish and run a weekly tutoring program, Homework Club, in all three Saguache County school districts. Using the Youth Assets Model, she matched volunteer mentors with asset-challenged youth.

During her time leading the mentoring program, Liza was deeply affected by the story of a program participant who was floundering through the foster care system and decided to become a licensed foster home, specializing in hard-to-place youth. Since, she opened her home to several teens – all of which stayed with Liza until they were emancipated from the system and two of which who were the first to graduate high school in their families.

Beginning in 2007, Liza served as the coordinator of the first cohort of LiveWell Colorado (LWC) communities in Alamosa at Valley-Wide Health Systems. She recognized that health equity was not a LWC priority and lobbied, alongside three others, to create the LWC Community Advisory Committee. Liza served on this committee for several years advocating for health equity. In 2016, she was part of the LWC team that brought Double Up Food Bucks for SNAP users to Colorado and just this year, she became the first community representative on the LWC Board of Directors. From 2007 to 2013, LiveWell Alamosa brought together community health advocates monthly to learn, discuss and act to make the San Luis Valley a healthier place to live.

Joined by her family, Liza received the award at the 2018 Colorado Health Symposium on Aug. 1. In addition to the award, the Foundation has pledged to make a $20,000 donation to a Colorado-based nonprofit of Liza’s choice, the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition, a 501c(3) organization dedicated to fostering an equitable local food system that restores the health of the people, community, economy and ecosystem.

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