On Tuesday, December 9, the Voices for Healthy Kids Texas Campaign Team hosted its first Advocating for Heart day at the Texas Capitol to educate legislators and their staff members on childhood obesity and grocery access issues in Texas. It was also an introduction to the grocery access issue for the volunteers in attendance, including members of the State Advocacy Committee, the Austin Grassroots Action Team, the new State Leadership Council for Obesity Prevention, and the Austin Go Red For Women Passion Committee.
Special guest Dr. Deanna Hoelscher, Director of Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living at The University of Texas School of Public Health, kicked off the day with a compelling presentation on the state of obesity in Texas. Savonne Caughey, Joel Romo, and Victoria Nelson of the Voices for Healthy Kids Texas Campaign Team, along with Kaitlyn Murphy, Senior Government Relations Director, reviewed the American Heart Association (AHA) Texas public policy agenda, outlined the Voices for Healthy Kids program, and shared successful meeting tips for the volunteers before their visits at the Capitol. A total of 21 volunteers and staff conducted meetings with 31 offices of potential champions, key decision makers, and their representatives in the state house. Armed with fresh fruit in grocery bags and water bottles emblazoned with the new campaign website www.CloserToMyGrocer.com, they discussed childhood obesity and access to healthy food with legislative staff, who were interested to hear from the AHA and discuss solutions to these issues, even while many of the legislative offices were in the midst of moving.
Seasoned advocates led the way for new and enthusiastic volunteers. Attendees included Tania Boughton, Melanie Hersom, Connie Kerr, Jeanell Davis, Jeanette Chavez, Anne Dapremont, Susan Patten, Pkaye Washington, Sheryl Green, Tom Tenner, Beth Wilde, Denise Jones, Natalie Smith, Carmen Santiago, and April Peters. Since many You’re the Cure networkers are passionate about childhood obesity and access to healthy food, but could not travel to the Capitol, the second ever AHA SouthWest Affiliate (SWA) action alert in conjunction with an Advocating for Heart day was launched on Tuesday. Volunteers advocated from their desks to share the "State of Obesity" report with lawmakers’ offices to emphasize the importance of decreasing childhood obesity in Texas.
Thank you to all of the SWA staff in attendance, including Anna Mondero, Human Resources Manager, and to Elizabeth Hadley of Greenberg Traurig LLP (Government Relations Consultant). TaShon Thomas, Stephanie Haskell, Kaitlyn, Savonne, and Victoria were welcomed additions at their first AHA Advocating for Heart Day, and provided invaluable support along with Brian Bowser and Joel.