Name: Coleman Tanner
Title: Advocacy and Public Policy Manager
Organization: Eat Smart Move More South Carolina
Coleman Tanner is the Advocacy and Public Policy Manager for Eat Smart, Move More South Carolina. She has a background in public health, and started out with Eat Smart, Move More South Carolina working with communities. Today, she works on their efforts through the Voices for Healthy Kids grant with a state level focus. She works to get healthier foods in schools. We sat down with her to hear more about what she is doing with Eat Smart, Move More South Carolina.
How did you end up here today, and what motivates you to work on issues to help our kids grow up healthier?
There are multiple factors that brought me here. Knowing that healthy kids are better learners, and the desire to help to address health disparities so that all kids have access to healthy nutritious foods. I became interested in public health because it is a part of my personal wellbeing and I want others to have access to it as well.
I am in public health because, like a lot of other people, I want to do things because they are the right thing to do. Obesity affects so many other areas of people’s lives—it really touches all aspects of our society as well. We need to remember to understand our audiences and target accordingly.
How are you working to change the environment to make it healthier and create a culture of health?
Related to the Voices for Healthy Kids grant that I work on, we are trying to make sure that the healthy choice is the easy choice in schools. Our organization does the same thing that I am working on for this grant. Eat Smart, Move More South Carolina is partnering with the state health department to help open outdoor recreation centers for the community at large to use when the schools aren’t using them, in addition to other projects. We work with work sites and local coalitions to have healthy food and meal policies put into place. Overall, we are trying to touch on where we live, work, learn, pray and play—and make sure that the healthy choice is easy choice at each of these places that affect our lives daily.
One way we are trying to influence change is by tapping into youth in South Carolina. We have a program called HYPE Project. The youth engagement manager works with youth across the state. Youth teams come together and learn about basics for healthy living, advocacy skills, and do an assessment of their community. In six months, they have an action plan to work and change their areas. Some have gotten safer parks and paths, taste testing for students. It’s great to see what they are doing.
What are your biggest accomplishments in helping children achieve a healthy weight?
I think one of our biggest accomplishments has been using success stories to share our message and story. We have done a lot to overcome paradigms that healthier foods are too expensive to sell and buy, and we have been able to share how schools that are purchasing healthy food are doing it successfully.
What excites you the most about showing up for work every day?
I get excited about connecting people to their lawmakers and helping them find a voice. One way we help people do that is by training them to be successful. We just finished a series of regional advocacy trainings. One of the most helpful things is role playing. Some people are intimidated to sit down face to face or call legislators. I have seen how much more comfortable people get by just role playing. It is exciting to see the energy generated a group that creates synergy and motivates a lot of people.
If you were starting out in your career, what would you recommend to your younger self? Tip of the day from the person.
Have patience. Also, celebrate the little wins along the way.
What game or sport did you play growing up?
I rode horses growing up, and loved it.
Each week, our own Amy Stone speaks with a Leader to get a quick look at why he or she loves working to create healthy environments for kids. Want to take part? Visit Amy’s profile and contact her.