The LiveWell Longmont Blog

Apr 17, 2018

7-Eleven Takes a Healthy Stand: Produce Pop-up Markets

Move over, giant slurpies. Before long, the iconic image you connect with the read and orange 7 encased in green may really be green. Or rather, greens. At least, here in Longmont.

Longmont’s 7-Eleven located on Lashley has partnered with Platteville’s Miller Farms to host a weekly produce market beginning this summer. Kicking off June 20th, the events will be held throughout the summer and as long as produce lasts, Wednesdays from 3-6. Miller Farms will be offering their generous, popular $10 bag deal: fill your bag with whatever you can for the set price. What’s more, Double Up Food Bucks will be accepted, so when paying with SNAP benefits, all that great goodness comes at just $5 per bag! “I think this is a great pilot program to see how the neighborhood will respond to fresh groceries,” says Lashley 7-Eleven owner Oliver Samra. “If this pilot program is successful then in the future I would love to explore the potential of making local produce part of the 7-Eleven merchandise.”

While 7-Eleven may not be your typical go-to source of fresh produce, healthy options have been a priority for some time. Last fall, we shared how previous funding from The Cancer Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Grants Program (CCPD) allowed LiveWell Longmont to support and promote healthy eating initiatives throughout Longmont. As part of this work, LiveWell Longmont began partnering with 7-Eleven on 9th and Lashley to help showcase their healthy options already in place: fresh fruit assortments and salads made daily, for instance. There are further snack packs with hummus, mini pitas, veggies, grapes and cheese cubes, and fresh sandwiches light on the saucy condiments.

LiveWell  was thrilled to offer marketing support to highlight healthy choices. “The junk food companies use billions of dollars to try to put their products front and center,” says our Longmont Community Engagement Strategist Erika Wey. “We wanted to be able to offer the same sort of support to some of the delicious foods that are good for you.” When it comes to the healthy options at 7-Eleven, Samra worked with Wey to ensure waste was limited. Twice weekly, Longmont Food Rescue collects unsold healthy items, redirecting them promptly to good use.

Everywhere in our #HealthyLongmont community, healthy progress–and interest–is budding. Over the course of several months, LiveWell Longmont conducted a series of food assessments underscoring the health conscious interests of our community. And though we as an organization will be closing our doors this summer, we are working tirelessly to the last second to put action plans into place addressing what we learned. We are partnering with numerous community organizations to provide additional resources at the weekly markets/mercados, with plans such  as cooking and preservation demos, nutrition education and more in the works.

The term “food desert” is becoming increasingly ubiquitous. But while the term is becoming more common, unless we experience the reality of it, we aren’t always fully aware of where they are. They exist too often, here in our own community. And there are things we can do. Small steps with great gains. Grassroots efforts like 7-Eleven’s summer produce stand. Keep the momentum going, Longmont. Health happens with you.

Apr 10, 2018

Longmont Food Rescue: Taking on Hunger by Tackling Food Waste

If there are any two statistics that, when paired, are striking, if not exactly savory, representation of our culture today, they could be these: currently, 40% of edible food ends up in landfills; and, nearly 1 in 10 Coloradans struggles with food insecurity, not consistently having enough money to buy food. Of those struggling with hunger, nearly one in six households is occupied by young children. Food needs, food waste. A solution seems simple, but that’s deceptive. In fact, there are many obstacles preventing fresh, edible, healthy food that would otherwise go to waste from reaching those who need it most. Longmont Food Rescue, founded by volunteer Executive Director Kelly Mahoney, is working assiduously to change this.

Kelly Mahoney woke up January 1, 2017, determined to start the new year off right. The following day, she submitted the application to establish Longmont Food Rescue (LFR), a non-profit whose mission is to redistribute nutritious food that retailers have deemed food waste, to directly feed hungry, homeless and low-income populations. Her application was granted within two weeks.

Since receiving official non-profit status, to say Mahoney hit the ground running would be an understatement. She had been researching and preparing for her new role quite some time. But she knew the key to success was going to be a broad, community effort. “The team at Boulder Food Rescue helped enormously,” Mahoney says. “When the time came, I already had a lot mentally in place for how to get started.” LiveWell Longmont helped facilitate initial meetings with other numerous stakeholders–Community Food Share, OUR Center, and others already picking up edible food destined for landfills from local grocery stores. Mahoney is enormously grateful to Whole Foods for its generosity in donations, and to Lucky’s Market for providing financial support. Longmont Food Rescue is further part of the Food Rescue Alliance, an avenue of support and sharing of information which all food rescues across the country are welcome to join.

“Thereare organizations here in Longmont where some folks can seek services,” Mahoney says. “We’re all working together for the greater good. LFR’s job is to identify and help fill the gaps, not to take over others’ good works.” Where are those gaps? Turns out, there are many. For instance, Whole Foods donates unsold, edible food seven days a week–at this time the only local grocery store to do so. But most food redistributors aren’t able to pick up Sundays. Longmont Food Rescue does.

Many organizations supporting those struggling with food insecurity are bound by time-consuming regulations that in effect prevent good food from being redirected in time. In establishing Longmont Food Rescue, Mahoney is careful to keep free from many of those restrictions. Key to the mission, she says, is to be an ally for the community and for food equity. In saving perishable donations of fresh fruits and vegetables from grocers and retailers, LFR ensures the food reaches those who need it most that same day– no stigma, no forms, no questions asked.

With Longmont Food Rescue, food is always free, and recipients need not produce an ID, a barrier for many in need. “There are many requirements folks have to meet to get food,” Mahoney says. “And yet there is so much food waste. There are dumpsters that are overflowing. That needs to change.”

In working to effect positive change, the team at LFR organize to directly transfer food donations to those in need in various ways. True to the overarching ethos of sustainability, they deliver the old-fashioned way, as much as possible by bicycle. The fresh food is transported to neighborhoods, senior centers, partner sites and other aligned organizations such as Meals on Wheels, within an hour of donation. The food is then consumed within 24 hours. .  LFR holds monthly “Produce in the Park” events, pop-up style farmers’ markets where everyone is invited to take what they want or need. They assist community groups and individuals in setting up their own free grocery programs. . Joining forces with Fresh Food Connect, they are facilitating food donations from local gardeners who have surplus in their gardens. Gardeners can sign up at freshfoodconnect.org.

In 15 months that Longmont Food Rescue has been in operation, a staggering amount of good has been achieved, including over 11,000 lbs of food distributed into the community But Mahoney is far from complacent. For the organization to continue to flourish and grow, it needs support. “We need volunteers to complete the mission,” Mahoney says. “We need those seasoned activists to join our advisory board and of course, we always need people to pick up food, deliver, man events.”

Even if volunteering doesn’t quite fit in your schedule right now, there are simple ways to make a big difference. You can start by asking questions, something Mahoney makes a point of doing all the time. “I don’t have all the answers,” she says. “I think my strength is asking questions, listening to people and making connections around where people might be able to get assistance. Being an ally.”

What questions should we be asking? A good starting point, of course, is always by turning the mirror on ourselves. What can we do personally to eliminate food waste? Can we pay a little kindness forward in the summer with our bounty of homegrown produce? Another place to open up some gentle questioning? The grocery store. What happens to the unsold produce at the end of the day? Each grocery store can have as much as 300 pounds of edible food waste in a single day, Mahoney says. “Composting is great,” she adds, “but it’s a last resort before food goes in a landfill. In between having edible food and composting, there’s a really important step in donating food.”

It’s easy to be disheartened at the struggles of the world. But take heart–there is always something we can do. And it starts right here, at the community level. “There is always something we can do to help,” Mahoney says.

Learn more about Longmont Food Rescue and how you can help. Visit the Longmont Food Rescue website and follow them on Facebook.

Apr 3, 2018

Get to Know: Kelly Mahoney

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, some people like to take the bull by the horns, from carving out goals to following through. Dive in. Go big or go home. You might say Kelly Mahoney is one of those people. The Executive Director of Longmont Food Rescue woke up New Year’s Day in 2017 with decision and purpose: she was going to start a non-profit–one which would  simultaneously address pressing issues of food insecurity and food waste while supporting and building community. On Monday, January 2, 2017 Kelly submitted the application for non-profit status. The reason for the slight delay of one day? It wasn’t the holiday. Rather, applications weren’t accepted on Sundays.

Lest the context of new year resolutions convey the sense that Kelly Mahoney jumped into her big endeavor hastily, know that the ideas behind the creation of Longmont Food Rescue were long in the making. Kelly spent most of 2016 researching, learning, and reaching out to local role models, while adjusting to life as a new mom and putting her career as an engineer on hold. What’s more, you might say Kelly’s whole life had been steadily guiding her to this point.

As a child growing up in rural Pennsylvania, Kelly cultivated unique, personal understanding and perspective on both what it means to be hungry and the powerful potential of community. She recalls early awareness of the struggles her mother undertook in raising Kelly and her brother as a single parent. “Some of my early, formative memories are of my mother dumpster diving so we could eat,” Kelly says. “That really stuck.”

When Kelly was in fourth grade, her mother’s family banded together to open a restaurant. It was a close-knit family business, and offered the true definition of home-cooking. In order for it to succeed, everyone moved in together, making Kelly’s home a 4-generation household. “There were ten of us,” Kelly says. “Great-grandparents, grandparents, my aunt, cousin, my mom, my brother, and me. It got a little tight sometimes, but looking back I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

At home and at work, everyone had jobs. Kelly’s grandmother took care of dinners while her mother and aunt worked evenings at the restaurant. For the kids, it was always very clear that the primary job was learning and school. “My great-grandmother was all about family, 100%,” Kelly says. “My family took on the goal of making something, and it was really always about us children, about creating the opportunity for us to thrive.”

Kelly worked hard at school, but education came from the restaurant too, as well as from the inspiring teamwork and dedication exemplified by her family. “My family paid me when I worked at the restaurant,” Kelly says. “I was taught about money, saving, the value of money, the meaning of work.” Kelly took on all types of work at the restaurant over the years–cooking, serving, cleaning. All the while, she nurtured appreciation for the connection between money and food, and how intertwined the two can be. “I got a glimpse into lives of customers, and how people can really struggle,” she says.

After graduating college, Kelly left Pennsylvania to pursue a graduate degree in mathematics at University of Arizona. There, she worked with the local faith community to bring life-saving supplies to those in towns along the Mexican-US border. Upon earning her degree, she accepted a job with Lockheed Martin and moved to Boulder. Once again, she found herself both drawn to volunteering and called to the kitchen. This time, she volunteered at the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless. Alongside this involvement, she discovered Boulder Food Rescue. “I was seriously inspired by their grassroots organization, now serving thousands every week,” Kelly says.

Kelly was so inspired by Boulder Food Rescue, she reached out to the team, eager to learn more. Executive Director Hayden Dansky and her team were more than obliging, welcoming the opportunity to share and advise over the past two years and ongoing. “Everyone has been wonderful, and a crucial part of getting Longmont Food Rescue off the ground,” Kelly says. “We talked on the phone, met in person. [Hayden] was pivotal in forming and advising.”

To imply that the journey establishing Longmont Food Rescue was smooth would be inaccurate. It took exceptional focus and hard work. All the while, Kelly was managing on little sleep, navigating a precious, new and evolving family situation. “My son was a terrible sleeper from day one,” she says. “I couldn’t perform at my engineering job on 2-3 hours of sleep a night, and we made the tough decision for me to stay home. It was difficult, but it was also the perfect opportunity for me to start a new project on my own time, setting my own hours.”

Since establishing Longmont Food Rescue, Kelly has worked tirelessly round the clock, organizing her team, which is currently 100% volunteer, including herself. Somehow she maintains a seemingly endless supply of inspired, positive energy and momentum, dedicated to supporting our community and prioritizing the changing needs of her family. Is it sustainable? For anyone but Kelly Mahoney, the answer would be more easily, no. Yet alongside being a strong individual who can achieve all she sets her mind to, Kelly grew up with a powerful respect and understanding for the meaning behind the phrase, “it takes a village”. Volunteers are always needed. Many volunteers. Find out how you can contribute by visiting Longmont Food Rescue’s website today.

Thank you, Kelly, for all you do to support, inspire, and nourish our community!

LWL: You have more than a full plate. How do you fit fitness into your personal routines?
Kelly: I like running and mountain biking and fit it in where I can. That fluctuates week to week at this point.

LWL: How do you prioritize active living as a whole family?
Kelly: Family is number one. Bicycling is a big part of our family life and significant for Longmont Food Rescue–we deliver food by bike frequently. We can’t park vehicles in our garage because there are so many bicycles. It fits into being environmentally conscious and also getting exercise.

LWL: How do you prioritize healthy eating as a family?
Kelly: I love cooking and eating vegetables…so my family is stuck eating healthy.

LWL:  What do you treasure most about Longmont?
Kelly: The community. We have really passionate activists here in Longmont.

LWL: What would you like to see in Longmont’s healthy future?
Kelly: There is so much food waste occurring here–it’s not just national, it’s right here in our community, just like hunger. I would love to see continued, sustainable efforts to make positive change.

Mar 19, 2018

Sharing Is Caring, Educating, Preserving & Learning: Eagle Crest Elementary Food Share Table

 The daily lunchtime rotation at the Eagle Crest Elementary Cafeteria is in full swing. Seeing her classmates assembling at the doors, Sophia Asbury nevertheless takes time from her own lunch break to enthusiastically provide an overview of the school’s popular recent addition known as the Food Share Table. “Food Share Table is really fun,” she says, pointing out the various color-coded bins, and highlighting their importance. The red crate is for whole fruits, she notes, the blue for unopened packages. Unopened cold items, such as milk and yogurt, are placed in the cooler. The ‘rescued’ food is then opened up for shared use throughout the day, and beyond.

“First students who are still hungry can take extra food from the table,” Asbury explains. “Then teachers can use it, like for snacks for kids. Then the cafeteria takes what they can use the next day.” Throughout the day, a bin with rescued food is left out in the cafeteria during the day; teachers may send students to it for snacks at their discretion. While to this point Eagle Crest has been using all its extra food, Asbury shares the team’s vision of providing any future surplus to Boulder County’s BackPack Program, providing backpacks with non-perishable, child-friendly and nutritious food to children who are food insecure.

Eagle Crest Elementary is one of 47 schools in Boulder County known as Green Star schools, partnering with Eco-Cycle to move toward zero waste through increased recycling, composting, and special activities. Sophia, a fourth grader, is one of many of her school’s Green Star Ambassadors, students who voluntarily assist with supporting waste reduction efforts, often giving up recess time to set up, clean up, and assist with activities. Recently those activities have expanded to include supporting the Food Share Table, a pilot initiative that builds two-pronged awareness, simultaneously highlighting key issues of food insecurity and food waste.

Planning for the Food Share Table, students identified roles needed to keep things flowing seamlessly, such as setting up bins daily. They evaluated ways to improve cafeteria efficiency, determining a key cause of food waste being that, by the time kids got through the lunch line, they found themselves short on time to eat. To mitigate this, they created a visual menu board, allowing students to mentally make their selections while waiting in line, and speeding up the process. They developed spreadsheets for tracking food items. “We picked a graph template in Excel,” says fourth grader Ryan Courtney, A Green Star Ambassador in charge of tracking items along with peer Blake Gorr. “We put in the date, and name the items. Every day we go to the cafeteria to count. We set a timer to remember going.”

Before winter break, the Food Share Table Team worked tirelessly preparing presentations, first to be shared at grade-level, and finally school-wide at special grade-level assemblies along with one specifically for faculty. Assemblies focused on the importance of keeping food out of landfills, awareness of hunger and food insecurity, and how the program would work. All their efforts were—excuse the pun—not wasted in the slightest. Eagle Crest launched the Food Share Table upon students’ return from break on January 2. Within nine school days, they had already rescued 505 food items: 264 pieces of fruit, 61 packaged items, 199 cartons of milk, and 16 other cold food items, all untouched, unopened, and otherwise thrown away.

According to the USDA, food waste is estimated at 30-40 percent of the food supply. Such waste has far-reaching, deplorable significance impacting other pressing issues, notably food insecurity and environmental conservation. Here in Colorado, nearly one in six children live in households suffering from food insecurity. While it was of the greatest importance to Eagle Crest’s Mighty Mighty Food Share Table Team to develop awareness of the big picture issues, they were equally committed to doing their best to ensure there would be no stigma associated with taking the rescued food. “We talked as a school about hunger, and how everybody feels hunger,” Potter says. “About how that feels. This program has really brought in such a level of awareness and compassion.”

Touring the halls, cafeteria and classrooms of Eagle Crest, the thriving Food Share Table program is clearly not associated with stigma. It is a source of pride. “I made that poster,” one student says in the hallway, pointing and smiling as he walks by.” When numbers are shared over the intercom, announcing recused items, students buzz with excitement and a little disbelief, Potter says. “One day we rescued 308 oranges and one apple,” says Blake Gorr. “That’s really crazy! Before, when we didn’t have the Food Share Table, that’s probably about .50 per orange. That would really add up to a lot of money.”

What’s next for the Food Share Table team? Given the success of the pilot, chances are good they will be resuming their industrious work developing, or adapting, presentations before long. In the meantime, they continue to build upon and refine their operations. Menu cards are developed. The tracking spreadsheet is being revised to incorporate cost. The sign-up sheet showing student helpers brims with names falling off the page. “I personally think every school should have a Food Share Table and compost program,” says May Gherardi, one of the students to attend the food waste workshop with Potter back in September. Judging from the spirit that comes across in the posters, bulletins and displays throughout the building, the whole of the school community would agree.

*Please see this month’s issue of Longmont Magazine for the full article and more details on how this wonderful program evolved!

Mar 19, 2018

Get to Know: Alison Zemanek

Breakaway Cycle & Strength Studio owner and instructor Alison Zemanek didn’t exactly picture herself running a business, nor did she quite identify particularly as being a role model for fitness, once upon a time. Her journey to launching Colorado’s first performance-based cycling studio–founded on an ethos of universal welcome and respect–was more a merging of both motivation and chance. A combination of keeping drive alive while adjusting for the evolving demands and responsibilities of family, work and school, and an openness to take on board what life offered up along the way.

“As a child I was always very active,” Alison shares. “Then, in high school, there was a shift. Partly hormonal, partly friend groups. I stopped regular structured exercise and kept eating the same way. I put on weight, and I struggled mentally and emotionally. That’s part of why I left Buffalo.”

A few years after graduating high school, Alison moved to California for university. She didn’t yet have clear goals, but she did have a lot of internal questions, and found quietly encouraging answers from simply giving herself a fresh start and new location. “I didn’t have a car, and started riding my bike everywhere,” she says. “I added a lot more vegetables into my diet, going vegetarian for awhile. But the biggest, most significant change was, I stopped thinking about health in terms of diet or structured workouts. It became a lifestyle–just living and eating well. That’s when I settled into a healthy weight for my body and a healthy outlook for me.”

At school, Alison tried out different concentrations in seeking a major. She thought about business, and had an aptitude for it. She was drawn to exercise physiology as a discipline, but says the chemistry classes were not her bag. Upon trying out a philosophy class, however, she fell in love. “I loved it and was good at it,” Alison says. “I remember I had a counselor who recommended getting out of it, because there wasn’t a clear career path connected to it. But I kept at it. And it was worth it for me, because I’d found something I was good at. That’s important–finding things you can excel at and enjoy.”

Alison may not have turned her philosophy studies into a profession, but she did apply them all the time, and continues to do so. It took great strength of character and dedicated self-awareness and reflection to keep forging her way forward, balancing not just school, but full-time work managing a Border’s Book Store, and a growing family. Alison met and married her husband while studying at Sacramento State; the two moved to Colorado so that Alison could attend graduate school at CU Boulder.  While working full time and attending grad school, she became pregnant with the couple’s first of two boys. At that point, while developing her thesis, she made a bold choice to discontinue graduate study for the time being to spend her non-working hours home with her baby.  “It was a tough decision, but it was the right thing for us,” Alison says. “And it was the beginning of when I started to really get into and appreciate fitness.”

After the birth of her second child four years later, Alison left her retail management position and opted to piece together small jobs that would allow for flexibility while raising her two boys. She looked after her own fitness, starting a run-walk program with her husband four mornings a week at nearby Coot Lake. After the program was finished, she continued running. She joined a moms’ group that focused on riding the Venus de Miles together, and also took up swimming. It wasn’t long before Alison set the goal of completing her first triathlon, which she did at the Longmont Tri in 2010. During her prep, she became certified to teach spin classes, first teaching at the Longmont Recreation Center, and later adding in classes at Centennial Pool.  While seeking out strength options for her own training program, Alison came across TRX suspension training   “What initially inspired me to learn more about suspension training was a video of a man in a wheelchair who was able to access so many of the benefits of strength training using the TRX suspension trainer.  I was just impressed at this tool’s versatility and accessibility and decided that I needed to learn more. I tried it, and loved it, so I took a certification class, and also got my NASM personal training certificate around this same time.”

While teaching at Centennial Pool, she convinced Karen Charles, Recreation Area Supervisor, that TRX would be a perfect addition to the limited space available for group classes there.  Karen agreed and added the TRX equipment, and so through that program at Centennial Pool, Alison had the opportunity to introduce group TRX training classes to Longmont for the first time.

As Alison become more engrossed in teaching a range of fitness classes gauged for a broad span of abilities, she found her business-minded mentality from Border’s days coming increasingly back to her. “While online one day, I came across this guy who had a studio that was just for cycling, and I thought how awesome that would be,” she says. ” His was one of the first cycle studios to exist in the country. I reached out to him, and he helped me draw up a business plan.”

Alison sat on that business plan for two years, letting the idea simmer. It continued to develop in her mind, and she pondered it with growing excitement. “I was really into cycling, but specific cycling, more performance-oriented,” she says. “And I felt like people in my spin classes would really appreciate more specialized options.” In 2011, Alison and her husband decided to take the chance and fund the project. She began looking at real estate, finding the Main Street Studio.

“Everything was so perfect,” she says. “The space was move-in ready. The owners were excited and had a vision of using their space to help build up and improve the downtown area.  I liked them right from the start!  One of the owners of the space even said that he and his wife would attend classes if I opened the studio, and they did. They still do.”

Upon opening Breakaway in 2012, Alison looked purposefully looked to her expert instructors, and to the community, for guidance. “I thought, nobody knows me, I don’t  have a following. What matters to get this off the ground is getting the best people to offer what our community wants and needs.”

Alison reached out to and integrated with the local cycling community, supporting Peak to Peak cycling group out of Lyons, St Vrain Chain gang and others with special discounts, classes and more. She made a point of welcoming instructor feedback in every area, from specific offerings to decor. She continued to add to her own personal certifications, and continuously researched developing performance oriented technology. Breakaway became the first group cycling studio in Colorado to have leaderboard technology offering external feedback. Before long, the studio became a test facility of sorts for  Stages Cycling, the brand that supports Tour de France competitor Team Sky, and which has an R&D base in Boulder. A year and a half ago, Alison added an additional studio on Sunset Street specifically for TRX, Kettlebell, and Pilates. “I loved them personally, and felt the classes would really complement cycling,” Alison says.

For evidence that Alison’s hard work and experience has paid off through Breakaway Cycling & Strength Studio, one only has to chat a minute with any of the many loyal community members who are regular clients. Or, to any of her instructors, for that matter. “I started with Breakaway when it first opened,” says client Denise Thomas. “I went away for a few years because of teaching commitments, but I came back. The culture drew me back. It’s like family.” “Instructors are very experienced,” says client Barbara Veal. “They give us little tweaks so we don’t get hurt. Classes are intimate. You have ultra athletes and beginners side by side, but everyone gets what they need. They encourage you to keep on and try.”

Client Dessie Willie found out about Breakaway through Alison’s support for the Lyons school cycling team when Willie was an assistent coach. “She was a special part of kids’ growth, many of whom were newbie mountain bikes,” Willie says. “I was so drawn in by the way she gives back to the community. And the instructors–Erika [Ruge] is a world-class athlete. We’re so lucky to have her.”

What does the future hold for Breakaway, and for Alison? She’s not sure, and that’s just how it should be. As a general rule, progress means change. “I just want to be better and better,” she says of both personal and business growth. “That can mean change, but we’re going to keep reaching for the stars and being innovating.”

Thank you so much, Alison, for reaching and innovating! Thank you for sharing and all you give to our community.

LWL: You’re so busy yourself. How do you stay active as a family?
Alison: At this age, we’re all kind of doing our own thing. But we support each other. Both my boys play basketball, and we love to go to the games. My husband plays soccer several times a week.  And I’m a kettlebell sport athlete, which provides me with competition goals and the structured training that I need to keep fitness a priority when so many other things demand my time.

LWL: How do you prioritize healthy eating?
Alison: I’m a strong believer that food is medicine. I believe the way you eat affects everything in your life. In my field, I see lots of extremes around the topic of food, but I believe that true health can only come with a more moderate approach to nutrition.  Focusing on what your body needs to be healthy and strong is much more important than focusing on what you weigh. It’s important to me that my kids eat lots of vegetables, I see their future and I feel as a mom it’s so important to me to set them up as best I can. It would be easy for me to be very restrictive with them, but I try to remember moderation here as well, so I’ll never completely take their sugar away.

LWL: What is your favorite healthy food?
Alison: Probably salads. I love making gigantic salads with all different stuff in it.

LWL: What do you treasure most about Longmont?
Alison: I love that it’s so family-focused. Being a family in Longmont, it just feels like this is the right place to raise my kids.. And I love the people. I probably wouldn’t know the community as well if I didn’t run the studio. So I feel very grateful. The people I’ve met through my business are all so kind and driven and focused, they inspire me every day!

LWL: What would you like to see in Longmont’s healthy future?
Alison: It would be so nice if we could utilize Main Street for more active things. Also, continuing in the direction they’re going–connecting trails, making it easier to ride commute.

Mar 12, 2018

The Couple That Trains Together, Stays Together: Meet Ruth Ann and Gordon Hodgson

This past Valentine’s Day, Ruth Ann and Gordon Hodgson celebrated the love that has bound them through 67 years of marriage and counting with an hour of cardio at the United Health and Wellness Gym inside Longmont United Hospital. And why not? What better way to spend an afternoon, after all, than with sharing activity that feels good, does good, and is encouraged by doctors and loved ones? Besides, this year Valentine’s Day fell on Wednesday.

For the past twenty years, Gordon Hodgson has been showing up to exercise at LUH every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—since he was 74, in fact. Several years ago Ruth Ann began joining her husband, and today the couple enjoys iconic status at the gym. Ruth Ann’s warm smile envelopes everyone in her radius with a kiss of pure kindness. Gordon’s sturdy shoulders and humble bearing give hints to his character–his committed work ethic, patience and modesty. Their presence bestows a lift to their surroundings.

Colorado natives and longtime Longmont residents, Ruth Ann and Gordon met in their twenties at a roller skating rink south of town. A year later the couple, who have two children and four grandchildren, were married. “He was a nice man, a good man,” Ruth Ann says, tenderly patting her husband on the shoulder. “Still is.”

Neither Ruth Ann nor Gordon considered themselves “exercisers” until later in life. They did, however, lead active lives, from childhood on. Ruth Ann grew up on a farm with nine brothers and sisters. “It was a good place to be active,” she reminisces. Later she worked in soil conservation, which involved skiing and snowshoeing in the mountains to take snow surveys. Her work was training enough to propel her up Long’s Peak with girlfriends as a young woman.

Gordon also led an active lifestyle, through hard work. Before meeting Ruth Ann, he was in the navy, trained in welding and metalwork. In 1956 he started his own welding shop, Hodgson Welding, which did business in Longmont for a solid 35 years. Ruth Ann assisted with the bookkeeping. “Back then, you either farmed or did coal mining,” Gordon says. “I made farm machinery. That kind of work, welding and working with machinery, is hard.” Upon retiring, Gordon was offered and accepted a position to make lab equipment for the astrophysics department at CU Boulder, which he did for seven years. “That was a good job,” he says with fondness.

Outside of work, Gordon and Ruth Ann enjoyed active pursuits together, albeit casually. They skied, played golf, did gardening in their backyard. So it came as something as a shock when in 1998, Gordon’s doctor became concerned during a routine checkup. Gordon felt fine, but further examination ultimately resulted in Gordon undergoing bypass surgery. The ensuing recovery was tough, but he emerged from it determined: it was time, he decided, to start getting serious about exercise.

Ruth Ann may have felt called to take on Long’s Peak, but she attributes adopting regular physical activity to Gordon’s dedication and tenacity. “I could think of lots of excuses,” she says. “It’s too windy, I’m too tired, it’s too cold. But he keeps us going, and we’re always glad of it.”

For two decades now, Gordon’s consistency is an inspiration to the community he and Ruth Ann have cultivated at LUH. They are in turn inspired, looking forward to the friendliness and camaraderie that comes along with what they describe as doing the right thing for their bodies. “There are many people who actually admire us for exercising,” Ruth Ann acknowledges, her eyes sparkling. “We’re following doctor’s advice more than anything else,” Gordon adds pragmatically. “We’ve been told to exercise, to we do. They tell us every year to keep on doing it. Our kids encourage us to do it. And we enjoy it.”

Ruth Ann and Gordon clearly do enjoy their time working out at the gym. At ages 90 and 94 respectively, simply showing up is nothing short of success. What are their secrets? Luckily for us, they’ve offered a few tips:

Just do it. No excuses. They don’t say it that way, but the example they set sure does. “No one has ever told us we shouldn’t but a lot of people have told us we should,” says Gordon. “It’s the right thing to do, to be healthy and happy.”

Find a community. “[The LUH United Health and Wellness Gym inside LUH] is a social place,” Ruth Ann says. “That’s part of what makes it nice–the people. We enjoy them, and they’re good to us. It’s kind of nice to belong to something so you’re more encouraged to go.” It’s nice to have a workout buddy for that same reason, she adds, gently nudging her husband. “We look forward to exercising because it’s not only good for you, you enjoy the people. Sometimes you don’t even know their names but you know the face, and it’s nice to see,” she says.

Gratitude. They aren’t prone to boasting–ask Gordon how he’s doing and chances are you’ll receive his trademark response, “good enough”. But don’t let their modesty deceive you. They make a point of being ever conscious and thankful for what they have. Gordon shares that he has outlived both his parents combined. His father died of pnuemonia in 1947, his mother of a blood clot in 1954. “Back then there was nothing they could do,” Gordon says. “We’re living in a good time. We tell each other quite a lot how fortunate we are, that we can do the things we do.”

Thank you, Ruth Ann and Gordon, for sharing and encouraging! You are inspirational!

Mar 1, 2018

Longmont Multi-Use Corridor Survey: Two Minutes to Build a Safer, Healthier Longmont for Cyclists & Pedestrians (and everyone)

Isn’t Longmont lovely? We have so much going for us–access to everything, small-town feel, caring community, and progressive local government that truly prioritizes livability. Walking and biking here is a beautiful way to be active, supported by our 158 miles of greenway paths and bike lanes. For short trips around town, our Bike Share program is an innovative way the city encourages active transport while also supporting mitigation of traffic related issues, such as congestion and parking availability. Now, if only there were a cohesive system connecting our various paths for even greater safe, enjoyable active options citywide. Wouldn’t that be great? The City thinks so, too, and you’re invited to help guide what next steps can make that happen for the biggest impact.

LiveWell Longmont is currently conducting surveys to supply the City with informative data to help prioritize projects focused on making cycling and walking in Longmont safer and more pleasant. Central to ongoing inquiry and study is identifying corridors with specific needs. Enhanced Multi-Use Corridors are street corridors that provide safe, comfortable, low-stress bicycle and pedestrian facilities and opportunities. Much like multi-use trails, the ultimate aim is to provide connectivity within the City’s trail system and multi-modal transportation network. In working to that goal, the City is looking at various corridors, such as 21st street, the Lamplighter/Oligarchy Ditch area, and others, both noting improvements that can be made–such as adding bike lanes– and seeking to determine which areas would be most highly used, as these will have priority.

“By completing our survey, Longmont community members have an exciting opportunity to inform potential infrastructure improvements for pedestrians and cyclists,” says Christina Edstrom, who has been coordinating survey efforts, managing a team to reach out to businesses, churches, and other organizations as well as individuals. “It’s a great, simple way to give your opinion on how to make Longmont an even better place to bike, walk, and run. And your voice will be heard. We’re looking at every comment seriously.” (As an added bonus, simply filling out the survey includes the chance to earn a $25 gift certificate at Target or Lowe’s.)

LiveWell Longmont will continue to conduct survey work through the end of March. Our goal is to collect 2000 surveys–and the more the merrier. Please follow this link to share your voice: https://survey.zohopublic.com/zs/GqB5fy

If completing the online form isn’t an option, we have paper available. We will be at numerous events throughout the month, and will frequently be represented at Longmont Recreation Center. You can also contact Christina Edstrom at [email protected]. Thank you for helping build our healthy Longmont future! It’s true small things can add up to big progress. Two minutes of your time could mean a lifetime of more healthy options.  

Photo credit: Nathan C. Pulley Photography

Feb 26, 2018

Nourishing Community: Silver Creek Leadership Academy Capstone Project Combines Love of Food with Love for Longmont

Growing up as the daughter of a dietitian, Silver Creek High School Senior Madeline Karr remembers being conscious of the power and potential of food from an early age. In her household, a wide variety or nutritious ingredients, plentiful fruits and vegetables, and accessible healthy snacks was always the norm. And while Karr’s mother, Kaiser Permanente registered dietitian Sue Heikkinen, Ms, Rd, CDE, took care to emphasize the importance of a healthy, balanced diet, Karr didn’t grow up feeling restricted or overly managed with regard to her food choices. Rather, she recalls growing increasingly conscious of the possibilities offered by food, and empowered to personally make –and create—healthy food choices.

Karr’s experience learning about nutrition and combining that knowledge with a love of cooking made the task of developing a concept for her Silver Creek Leadership Academy Senior Capstone Project a fairly straightforward one. Since the beginning of this 2017-18 academic year, Karr’s Capstone project, For the Love of Food, has continuously evolved in exciting and meaningful ways. The project’s focus, promoting healthy cooking and eating to Longmont children and their families, remains the rock solid core. However, as she progresses in her work, Karr’s project has steadily developed to include a broad variety of channels through which to support community with lasting stamina. Throughout the fall, Karr supported and assisted with healthy cooking after school enrichment classes for students grades K-5 at Burlington Elementary School. She intends to continue her involvement with cooking classes at Burlington for the spring semester, and is also working on a cookbook containing simple recipes and activities designed for kids and their families to be distributed at Burlington Elementary and through the OUR Center. For this month, however, her focus is putting together a Little Free Pantry for use by the Burlington school community.

The Little Free Pantry movement applies the Little Free Library® Concept to activate community engagement in addressing food insecurity. The message is simple: give what you can, take what you need. Neighbors help neighbors. “I read an article in the Times-Call this past September, about the first Little Free Pantry installed in Longmont outside the First Evangelical Lutheran Church,” Karr says. “I loved the concept. It felt like a true community initiative with no stigma. It also helps reduce food waste. I wondered right away if I could somehow incorporate something like this into my project.”

Karr recalled how, last school year another student had begun building a cabinet intended for use as a Little Free Library as part of his Capstone Project. A location was never finalized however, and that intended portion of the project was not completed. Recognizing the potential, Karr sought permission to complete the cabinet and turn it instead into a Little Free Pantry. Permission granted, next step was to determine a location. Given Karr’s experience working with Burlington students, the school seemed a natural fit. She proposed her idea to Burlington Principal Kerin McClure, who responded enthusiastically.

In January, the Little Free Pantry was successfully installed at Burlington Elementary for use by the Burlington community. Karr isn’t resting on the laurels of accomplishment, however. She is now turning her focus to development of a kid-friendly, healthy cookbook to be distributed to cooking class students, and also through the OUR Center. Want to lend support, or simply learn more? Follow For the Love of Food on Instagram, under the handle scla_love_of_food. Contact Karr by email at [email protected]. Your feedback and involvement is welcome: every bit counts. “I am feeling so many emotions as my project comes to fruition,” Karr says. “Surprise, relief, excitement. It is wonderful to know my project has evolved from the earliest brainstorming phases to having a solid legacy, something that will continue to support our community into the future.”

For more information, read the complete story in the January/February issue of Longmont Magazine. 

Feb 20, 2018

Mindful Music: Heal through the Songs Within You

Think about your favorite movies, or most memorable events. Now imagine them minus the soundtracks. Whether it’s the foreground or the background, music makes has a way of elevating everything, doesn’t it? When it comes to your health (happiness, and wellbeing), your body would agree.

We’ve all experienced the effect of music on mood. It can enchant, inspire, comfort, empower. We can come away from a musical experience feeling equally soothed and revved up. But increasingly, research backs the potential of music to offer significant benefits to our health, well-being, and overall capabilities. Longmont Music therapist, instructor, and founder of  Soundwell Music Therapy, PLLC, Faith Halverson-Ramos has seen the impact across numerous settings, and all walks of life; she in turn is passionately devoted to helping people harness the power of music to heal and expand their lives.

Merely listening to music has been shown to improve energy levels, heighten focus, boost memory function and cognition, improve sleep quality, reduce anxiety and more. It’s no wonder findings associate regularly listening to music with healing. Accessing music in a more involved manner, such as through music therapy, findings are all the more impressive, with results spanning from restored speech to offering pain relief and reducing the side effects of cancer therapy. In fact, with brain-imaging techniques such as functional MRIs, music is increasingly used in therapy for brain-related injuries and diseases.

Perhaps what is most striking about the power of music is its power to help everyone, regardless of personal circumstances. “One thing music can do for people, particularly when they are creating for themselves, is provide a means of better understanding themselves,” Halverson-Ramos says. “They become not only more aware of emotions, but they develop greater body awareness as well, which offers its own insights–where we hold tension, how our breathing feels, how we connect with others and our own thoughts. Often in relating to each other, we try to deflect what’s going on inside, either by talking too much or not at all, retreating. But with music, whether we’re drumming, vocalizing, listening, we become better able to drop what’s going on, open up to a larger perspective and to one another.”

Halverson-Ramos grew up immersed in and enamored with music. Her earliest memories involve an old pump organ and a player piano at her grandparents farm in Wisconsin. For many years, she worked toward a career in musical performance, though she was also interested in psychology. She earned her BM in vocal performance and vocal pedagogy, and went on to receive her Master’s in Transpersonal Counseling with a Music Therapy focus at Naropa university in Boulder. “My career goals really clicked my senior year in college, when I was preparing for a senior recital,” Halverson-Ramos says. “I realized that while I enjoy aspects of performing, the reality of the lifestyle, the competition and the auditioning, didn’t really resonate. What I truly was interested in was the internal psychological process that you have to go through to learn a piece of music, connect with and perform it. I have always had so much empathy for people who are struggling. I wanted to be able to help others connect in that powerful way.”

As a licensed counselor and Board Certified Music Therapist, Halverson-Ramos has worked and continues to offer her services across a range of settings, including schools, hospitals, and hospice centers. summer camps. At each venue, certain stories stand out amid great progress. “One of the most moving moments for me was working in hospice,” Halverson-Ramos says. “I was working with a woman in the late stages of Alzheimer’s. Her son was there, and he explained that his mother didn’t speak anymore but that she loved gospel hymns. I sang to her, and on one visit, with her son present, she started singing along with me. After the song ended, she was able to share a few short sentences that were clearly related to the experience. Her son was floored. He hadn’t seen his mom that way in years. I was just so struck by the healing in that experience, for both mother and son.”

Through the Longmont Recreation Center, Halverson-Ramos offers four-week singing groups monthly: Singing for the Health of It. “Our focus is developing good vocal technique, enjoying singing with others, and trying out different things,” she says. “There is no set agenda; we go by the needs and comfort level of the group. Sometimes it’s all someone can do just to get there.”

What if you’re not ready for a group, or even an audience in the form of a teacher? Remember that listening carries a world of benefits of its own. And when you’re ready, there is always another level to explore. How to start making the most of music in your life? “I am a big proponent of just making musical sounds,” says Halverson-Ramos. “Have fun making sounds in the privacy of your car, or in the beautifully humidified environment of the shower–those are great acoustics. Just embrace your voice. It will be a key to embracing yourself.”

Feb 12, 2018

Get to Know: Nayah Murphy

On meeting Altona 6th grader Nayah Murphy, one can’t help but be drawn in by her cheerful demeanor, warm smile, and bubbling laughter, not to mention friendly amber eyes and voluminous curls. Spend a little time chatting with her, and guaranteed it won’t take minutes before other, less overt and equally striking qualities reveal themselves, not least intensity of focus, committed work ethic, and fierce internal drive balanced harmoniously with approachable sincerity. Nayah Murphy possesses poise and a certain worldliness that defies her twelve years. Celebrity status has a way of inspiring that in a person, though in this instance, motivation clearly comes foremost from within.

Like any typical sixth grader, Nayah has her plate full with the demands of schoolwork, navigating evolving social scenes, the ups and downs of friendships. Atypically, she somehow manages to fit all of it in alongside the rigorous demands of high level training and racing, frequent travel, and oh yes, the occasional film shoot. Nayah isn’t likely to be caught complaining about the burdens caused by lack of time, however. She doesn’t have time for that.

When Nayah was three years old, she determined she wanted to start karate after watching “Scooby Doo and the Samurai Sword”. “It looked fun,” Nayah says. “I went to my first martial arts class and it kind of just went from there.” By ‘it’, Nayah means her progression from wide-eyed preschool martial arts student to five-time North American Sport Karate Association (NASKA) world champion. Her mastery and athleticism became so standout, she landed a role as one of the stunt doubles for “Laura”, played by Defne Keen, in the 2017 Marvel Entertainment film, “Logan”. Many of those stunts were done alongside actor Hugh Jackman. In addition, Nayah was given a secondary role in the movie, acting the part of a Mutant Child.

Nayah’s mother Stephanie had submitted a demo reel of her daughter’s martial arts skills after hearing about film auditions from Nayah’s karate teacher. “We didn’t expect in she’d actually get called,” Stephanie says. “We figured a billion kids would try out for it.” Perhaps a billion kids did try out indeed, but Nayah and her family were flown out within a week. “Literally, we’d get notice in less than 24 hours to be on location,” Stephanie recounts. “It was insane.”

It takes a strong person, not least a young person, to meet the demands of a rigorous, unexpected schedule head-on the way Nayah did. It might be said that it takes even more strength to then give it up. Nayah thrived on set. She made friends, gained knowledge, and was offered shining glimpses of a potential future she may not have otherwise envisioned. But while she loved the experience, and would like to do further work as a stunt double, she came to realize that her heart was with something else altogether: barrel racing.

As a toddler and preschooler, Nayah didn’t care for horses. As she grew, however, she began spending more time with them alongside her mother, watching, and caring for them. At age eight, she began taking up riding seriously. It wasn’t long before she began competing in barrel racing, a rodeo event in which a horse and rider attempt to complete a course around preset barrels in the fastest time. She loved it. “I’m not really drawn to most team sports,” says Nayah. “I’m good at barrel racing. I love how with barrel racing, it’s just me and the horse, working together, doing our best. I love the thrill, running really fast. I love training the horses, riding them, getting them calm, making sure they’re healthy. There’s just so much involved, and it’s really special.”

Needless to say, Nayah throws herself into all her pursuits with determination and drive. Ultimately, she found herself pulled too taut in two directions, having to compromise between barrel racing and karate. A farm-girl at heart, she chose the horses.

Ironically, Nayah’s decision to stop her karate training and focus solely on barrel racing came following the earning of her fifth world title. “I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, and I’ll always hold onto martial arts skills and lessons,” Nayah says. “But I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. It was pulling me away from the horses.”

Nayah’s decision opened up new worlds. For one thing, she was able to begin attending Altona Middle this past fall. In order to accommodate filming for ‘Logan’, and travel for regular NASKA competitions, she had been homeschooling for the previous year. Given the space for enhanced focus, Nayah has also improved significantly in her chosen sport. “There are four different divisions in barrel racing,” she explains. “1D is the fastest, going down to 4D. I went from 3D to 1D in six months.” “She even outruns some of the professional barrel racers,” Stephanie, a competitive barrel racer herself, adds proudly.

What’s next for Nayah? Day to day, she’s focused on working hard at school, maintaining grades, enjoying time with her friends and family. Long-term, she’s open-minded, but no doubt the future will involve horses. This past year she qualified for the Junior National Finals Rodeo, in which she competed early December. This year she will attempt to qualify for the RFD-TV American Barrel Race competition, hoping to compete in 2019. “Maybe one day I’ll be an equine vet, or something else that involves working with horses,” Nayah says. “But I also want to try to be a professional barrel racer. I want to see where I can go.”

We are looking forward to seeing where you go too, Nayah, and are thrilled with your adventures so far. Thank you for sharing some of your journey with us!

LWL: You’ve certainly got a packed schedule! How do you fit it all in?
Nayah: 
Usually I wake up, go to school, then ride after school for about two hours. When I don’t have school, I’ll do Insanity (high intensity interval) workouts for about an hour. And I do trampoline and tumbling class at Airborne Gymnastics for an hour and a half twice a week. It’s hard but not really too bad. I just have to make sure I’m always being productive and efficient. At free period in school, I can get a lot of my homework done, and finish up the rest at home in the evenings.

LWL: Barrel racing isn’t exactly a commonly known sport. What kind of training is involved?
Nayah: 
Barrel racing involves a lot of core strength. You have to be strong to pull yourself up when the horse is riding–sometimes 40 miles an hour around a turn, heading into a barrel. A lot of training is of course riding the horse. But I’ll do some running too–it especially helps when I’m frustrated.

LWL: You mentioned how your experience as a martial artist has helped you in barrel racing. Can you share a little more?
Nayah:
I think it helps me channel defeat well. I had a lot of practice–with karate, things don’t always go your way, but you have to turn it around and perform your best again within about five minutes.

LWL: How do you face competition? Do you get nervous?
Nayah: Oh yes. Once I get in the arena, I’m fine, but I get really nervous beforehand. But when I pet my horse, I calm down. Calming him calms me, too.

LWL: You’re all so busy. How do you share active activity together as a family?
Nayah:
It’s fun how my mom and I get to share barrel racing together. We both love it and compete at the same races. And my Dad [a former adventure racer] comes to watch. We also do just fun stuff, like going bowling, roller skating, all kids of stuff.

LWL: How do you prioritize healthy eating as a family?
Nayah: My mom has to eat gluten-free, and she works hard to help us all eat healthy home-cooked meals.

LWL: What’s your favorite healthy food?
Nayah: My favorite meal is steak and vegetables.

LWL: What would be your biggest tip to other young people discovering their dreams and potential?
Nayah: Do what you love to do.

Photo credit: Boaz Elkes