Improving Arizonans’ Health, One Tote at a Time
When Valley Leadership launched the first Impact Maker teams in 2019, it was to focus on the most pressing issues in Arizona, connecting life-long, engaged community leaders with the organizations who could use the perspective and can-do spirit of a group of Arizonans ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work. One of those issues is health – and a focus of the Health Impact Team has been on improving access to healthy foods. The team has partnered with Fresh Connections, Brooks Academy, Unlimited Potential, The Orchard Community Learning Center and Spaces of Opportunity to harvest, pack and hand out over 200 tote bags of fresh produce to families in South Phoenix each week.
Chiko Swiney, an attorney at CopperPoint and proud graduate of Valley Leadership Institute Class 41, has been a regular volunteer and critical team member. We caught up with her to talk about what the Health Impact Team has been working on and how why she gives her time to Impact Maker:
Valley Leadership: Why is health and access to food and nutrition such an important issue to you and such an important issue in Arizona?
Chiko Swiney: Health and access to food and nutrition is such an important issue for me and Arizona because a healthy body is a healthy mind. The food tote program provides healthy produce to families and provides information and recipes for healthy cooking. Eating healthy has far-reaching consequences: The mind functions better when the body is healthy. Students study better if they are well fed. When people are healthy there is less pressure on the health care system and it just makes for a better society.
VL: How did you hear about Impact Maker, and how did you get involved with volunteering?
CS: I heard about impact maker through VL. I received an email and was provided information on how to sign up. I then attended orientation and the rest is history.
VL: What do you like about it, and how have you seen an impact in your work?
CS: I love the team that puts together the produce totes and hands them out to families. They are all so kind and giving. Every Saturday we hand out about 30 totes. Initially only a few families came, and it would take us a while to hand out all the totes, but the word got out and now we have so many families coming. They are so appreciative. We have also handed out masks and exercise equipment. It is so rewarding. I also enjoy meeting the vendors in the farmers market.
VL: You could offer your time anywhere. Why do you give your time with Impact Maker and Valley Leadership?
CS: VL is about “doing” and giving back to our community and striving to make a difference for a better Arizona. That is why I volunteer with Impact Maker and Valley Leadership.
VL: Any advice or words of encouragement for people considering Impact Maker as a place where they can offer their leadership and skills to make Arizona stronger?
CS: My advice is go out and do. Volunteer; you can make a difference.
VL: There are disparities in health outcomes for Arizonans, particularly people of color. How is your work with Impact Maker helping to address that?
CS: My work with Impact Maker is helping to address disparities in health outcomes for Arizonans by not only providing free vegetables and fruits, but also providing information in Spanish and English about healthy eating. We provide recipes to show how to cook healthier meals. We have provided information about the coronavirus and the need to maintain social distancing, sanitize and wear masks in public. We have given out masks and hand sanitizer, as well as exercise equipment. We have provided information about the importance of the Census and voting, which impact funding for health services and education in addition to other social needs and services. On Sept. 18, we celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month at the farmers market through food and cultural dances.
Did you know you can support the work of Impact Maker? Donate now at valleyleadership.org/donate.