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Best and Brightest 2017: Public health and community motivate teen

By: Anslee Wolfe Special to The Gazette
May 4, 2017 Updated: May 4, 2017 at 4:41 pm
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This is the nineteenth of 20 profiles of The Gazette's Best and Brightest Class of 2017.

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A trip to India last summer sparked a passion in Isabella Nuñez that she shared with her whole school.

"We stayed in a small village in India, and they re-use apricot pits there that are being thrown away to make them into soap and body lotion," she said. "The idea of using something that is wasted, I thought that was really cool."

The trip was part of a program through the Experiment in International Living that focused on public health and community development. One of the requirements was Nuñez had to initiate a program in her own community to create a positive change.

"The EIL program's focus on public health had painted a clear picture for me: disparities in physical health between demographics are an undeniably social issue," she said. "My newfound understanding of health as social justice followed me home to illuminate the issue of food equality in my own city and educational community."

When Nuñez learned about the Colorado Springs Food Rescue, she wanted to be a part of it.

Volunteers with the food rescue recover food from businesses around the Pikes Peak region and deliver it to local nonprofit partnership programs. Each month, the group recovers about 30,000 pounds of fresh produce, prepared foods, such as catered leftovers, and perishable food.

Last fall, Nuñez spearheaded a program to join her school, Fountain Valley School of Colorado, with the food rescue.

"I have found food rescue to be a particularly important concept, not only in terms of the global food network and the efforts of local hunger relief organizations," she said, "but also in the context of a private boarding school where students would otherwise have no reason to look for issues in their own city."

Staff at the school's dining hall set aside food that can be donated, and student and faculty volunteers deliver it twice a week to local organizations in need.

"We have rescued over 320 pounds of food to date and have plans to continue or expand our program next year - all with a broader intention to raise student awareness of food waste and hunger," said Nuñez, 17, who interns with the food rescue as a food waste education coordinator.

"I thought this would be something good for me and my school. You can donate to a food pantry, but it's not always interactive. You don't have the community engagement, and I wanted that."

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