Sparta woman honored with the first-ever Friend of Public Health Award
The Monroe County Health Department recently presented its first Friend of Public Health award to Maureen Sullivan of Sparta.
In conjunction with National Public Health Week, health departments nominate an individual that demonstrates a collaborative spirit and work as part of the local public health system to promote health in Monroe County. This year’s theme is “Changing our Future Together.”
“Maureen Sullivan is very dedicated to improving the health of Monroe County residents through her collaborative work with the Nutrition Coalition, whose mission is to build a healthy community through a comprehensive initiative to promote good nutrition and access to healthy foods,” said Sharon Nelson, Monroe County Health Director/Health Officer.
“I recall years ago Maureen, who was volunteering with the Sparta Ecumenical food pantry stopped by the health department. She wanted to understand what the food pantry could do to offer healthier foods to county residents.”
Subsequently, she worked with the health department’s Viterbo University dietetic students to create a voucher program offering fresh fruit and vegetable vouchers for patrons to use at the Sparta farmers’ market. Since the food pantry did not have capacity to store and offer fresh produce to their patrons at that time, the farmers’ market was able to fill that gap.
Not only are Maureen’s sights set on improving the quality of foods available to Monroe County food pantry patrons, but to Sparta elementary students as well. To that end, she has been involved in fundraising for backpack food programs in the Sparta School District. One of Sullivan’s strengths is that she advocates for pulling together existing community resources, so that the community can effectively address hunger and nutrition as a larger coordinated effort.
Sullivan is an active member of her church, the Monroe County Nutrition Coalition and the Ecumenical Food Pantry. She participates in the Monroe County Community Health Assessment and Improvement Plan.
“She is a very passionate community health advocate,” said Nelson, who directed the creation of the award to recognize public health advocates.
Sullivan’s name will be engraved on the Friend of Public Health Award plaque, kept on the wall of the waiting room at the Health Department.