ALAMOSA — Food. Shelter. Clothing. Cell phones. Humans used to have three basic needs but it seems that society has added a fourth — instant communication via cell phones, computers, email, television and social media.
Through this evolution to become an “in touch world,” a percentage of people have been left behind due to the economic strata that normally occurs within human societies. But why, in this modern world, with all the resources available, should anyone be without a place to live, clothing to match the seasons or the daily needs of fresh water and nutritious food?
Fortunately, there are a number of people who take it upon themselves to have the compassion and the drive to create organizations that will help those who are attempting to live on the economic bottom. The terms used are poverty and food insecurities, whereby people are having to make choices between paying rent and having enough money left over to purchase healthy food.
Enter organizations like La Puente and the Adams State University Wellness Program. April 22nd - 28th is Hunger Education Week here in the San Luis Valley. La Puente is a non profit organization in the San Luis Valley with the mission to meet immediate needs and empower people to live independently, with dignity. With 14 food banks in the valley, a homeless shelter, Milagros Coffee House, the Rainbow's End Thrift Store, and the Valley Educational Gardening Initiative (VEGI), a program for growing community gardens that teach elementary school children to play in the dirt by planting seeds, pulling weeds, watering crops and watching the gardens grow, and then picking for eating, La Puente addresses nearly everyone's needs including serving three meals a day 365 days a year of healthy and local food. Funding is mostly through the generosity of local businesses and foundations who recognize the needs of those less fortunate. Donations and volunteers are always needed.
Adams State University attends to the needs of the student body but is also active in offering wellness programs for everyone in the Valley. Be unafraid to visit the ASU campus during Wellness Week for all the fun and educational events, from games to food demonstrations, free massages, mental well being discussions, volunteering at local community gardens and other surprising activities. Another goal, according to Israel Garcia, the Community Education Coordinator for La Puente, is to re-establish the connection to know local food sources. The San Luis Valley has always been an agricultural giant in Colorado but much of the food that is grown in the Valley is shipped elsewhere. With two new community gardens being added this year to the existing ones that have been producing local food for several years, Valley residents through the Food Bank and the gardens have year round access to free healthy food.
Long term and ongoing goals for Wellness Week include wellness for the whole community of the San Luis Valley, better nutrition for children and adults, decreased medical needs, and connecting the Valley through continuing programs promoting healthy good lives. Jessica Chacon, the fitness and wellness coordinator at ASU, has coordinated with on campus departments and clubs, community organizations to host events and workshops throughout the week, most of which are free.
Educate thyself, eat well, be weller!