Maria Regan González
Health Equity Program Manager, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota
As an undergraduate in Global Studies and Spanish at the University of Minnesota, Food Charter Champion Maria Regan Gonzalez spent a year in Ecuador working alongside an indigenous farming collaborative. The collaborative focused on strengthening local economies by using traditional and organic farming practices. This life-changing opportunity helped Maria to understand that so many social justice issues are inextricably connected to healthy food access and health.
“I came to understand the power of incorporating cultural beliefs, traditions, values, and practices into community-based solutions,” said Maria. “Through this, I gained a deeper understanding of how food access, when it is rooted in the histories and traditions of diverse communities, can be used as a powerful tool for building strong and healthy families, thriving local economies, and a clean and safe environment.”
Through her experience, Maria observed the impact of working with others to transform food from a tool of oppression into a tool that fosters empowerment, cultural pride, and a connection to the earth.
As a Health Equity Program Manager at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Maria is now using those experiences to advance food access, health equity, and chronic disease prevention via policy, systems, and environmental change in Minnesota communities.
At the center of Maria’s work is community collaboration and leadership. In November 2016, she was elected to serve as a Richfield City Council Member, which will enable her to provide leadership for many in her community, and encourage others to focus on equity and shared agendas.
“For those wanting to work on issues of food availability, one way to start is to grow your understanding of food availability,” Maria explained. “Get to know the community you want to work in, and ask the formal and informal community leaders about the community groups they serve, and what food availability looks like for those communities. Insert yourself into the community as much as possible, and listen to people’s stories.”
In her dual roles, Maria has the same goal—bridging communities to improve healthy food access for all.
“Minnesotans will only be a truly healthy state when all community members have the opportunity to reach their full health potential,” Maria said. “I’m dedicated to collaborating with people and organizations across our communities to make this a reality.”