Our very own Rosa Ramirez Richter was honored by her alma mater, the University of California, Davis, with the Ted K. Bradshaw Memorial Graduate Alumni Award. The prestigious award is granted each year by the Community Development Graduate Group at UC Davis and honors an alumna or alumnus of the program who exemplifies the passion, humanity and devotion for community empowerment with which Ted Bradshaw, professor of community development at the university, endowed his life as well as his academic and professional career. The award recognizes an early or mid-career alumna or alumnus who has demonstrated both academic excellence as well as the creative and skillful pursuit of social justice.
Rosa is the Director of Chicago Programs + Policy at Healthy Schools Campaign where she advocates and fosters the leadership and skills of students, parents, teachers and principals to fight for healthy changes in the third largest school district in the United States, Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Her role at HSC blends policy advocacy and community mobilizing with social justice issues, particularly school food and health. “School food isn’t just what students eat in the cafeteria,” says Rosa. “It fuels learning, drives marketplace change and also influences the taste buds and values of the next generation of consumers driving food system change.”
Rosa helps schools create healthy environments where wellness, healthy eating, physical activity and nutrition education are priorities. She successfully launched the Go for the Gold campaign, a city-wide movement for health and learning to curb skyrocketing childhood obesity rates. As a result of this movement, Chicago students are benefiting from healthier school food, increased physical activity and increased nutrition education. Many of these improvements later became the new standard and have been adopted into district policy as well as the basis for the healthy school report indicator that all schools display at CPS.
In Chicago, 86 percent of CPS students come from low-income families and qualify for federally subsidized meals. Many of these students rely on schools for most of their meals. At the same time, more than 43 percent of Chicago students are overweight or obese. In this context, it is especially critical that the meals students receive at school are healthy and help build habits that support students’ long-term health and academic potential. It is for these reasons and more that Rosa’s work is so important and impactful.
One of the issues that Rosa is most passionate about is the link between food and health; in particular, the importance of viewing school food as a social justice issue as well. School food is a $16.3 billion federally funded program, and this use of public dollars creates an important opportunity and responsibility for a policy discussion about nutrition standards, procurement and food systems.
Upon receiving the award, Rosa thanked her alma mater and stated how her experiences there truly shaped her career. She says that the education she received at UC Davis equipped her to be a critical thinker, to ask hard questions, but also to be innovative and come to the table with solutions and a willingness to partner with new and different allies. Congratulations, Rosa!