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Expanding and Strengthening Community

By Trish Olson, Director of Programs

Before I left the office last Friday, I had decided on a theme for this week’s column: Community. Then the devastating mass killing happened in Orlando and it only reaffirmed the importance of this theme. As President Obama said in a speech on Sunday, “This is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American — regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation — is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country. And no act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that make us Americans.”

Family Development’s community is expanding through the SNAP-Ed Community Partnership Funding initiative. As Director of Programs for the Center for Family Development, I recently participated in a report-out from 15 agencies after they had conducted five months of SNAP-Ed activities focusing on policy, systems, and environmental changes. What can be accomplished in only five months? A great deal! They reported a collective reach of over 16,000 people and working with a total of an additional 262 partners. This means that our community of those who share FD’s goals of increasing access to quality food and increasing physical activity has expanded.

These organizations were working on structural changes to increase availability, affordability, and access to fruits and vegetables and increase physical activity. Some examples of what these numbers represent include local ordinance analysis, coalition development, train the trainer, and expanding use of EBT at farmers markets.

In addition, they partnered with many staff members from our SNAP-Ed team. Again — our community expanded to reach FD’s goals through this program.

Community is more than an educational methodology for increasing reach. Working in and through community provides an opportunity to collectively work on the same goal. We work in partnership from “I” to “We.” We are not alone, but have solidarity in our mission. Community shares the weight of an issue, problem, or opportunity across many shoulders with those shoulders moving together in the same direction.

Actor Frank Langella, who won the 2016 Tony Award for lead actor on Sunday evening, had this to say in his acceptance speech: “When something bad happens, we have three choices: we let it define us, we let it destroy us, or we let it strengthen us.” May you embrace community in your work and the community you live, and let the weight on your shoulders strengthen you.

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