For over 30 years, Tricia Rodgers has been involved with programs that help to improve the lives of Alexandrians. Her volunteer work started in 1976 when she was a counselor with Alexandria’s Battered Women’s Support project. Since then she has undertaken many volunteer leadership roles including as a director of the Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry, the Alexandria Tutoring Consortium and the Virginia Oral Health Coalition.
For the past three years, Rodgers has served as cochair, and now chair, of the Alexandria Childhood Obesity Action Network (ACOAN), a work group of the Partnership for a Healthier Alexandria. ACOAN’s mission is to reduce the number of Alexandria children who are overweight and obese and under Rodgers’ tireless leadership it has achieved many successes to advance that mission. For example, through Rodgers’ leadership ACOAN increased access to healthy foods for adults, children and youth by providing funding and educational opportunities to establish and maintain gardens plots as well as becoming more knowledgeable about nutrition. In 2010, ACOAN worked with the Alexandria Redevelopment Housing Authority (ARHA) to create 16 garden plots for adult residents and a children’s garden at the Ruby Tucker Center at Hopkins and Tancil Court. Rodgers’ connections with the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s master gardeners program resulted in the master gardeners volunteering to provide gardening education for the participating adults and children. Over the last two years, ACOAN provided minigrants to community organizations to start new gardens or to expand existing ones. Some of the organizations that received gardening grants in 2013 include the ArlingtonAlexandria Coalition for the Homeless, ARHA’s Montgomery Learning Center, Fairlington Preschool, Friends of Guest House and Grace Episcopal Church.
Rodgers also successfully advocated for Alexandria’s Old Town/Market Square and the Four Mile Run farmers’ markets to accept food stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) so individuals and families could more easily afford fresh fruits and vegetables. Additionally, she formed a working group that assessed the strengths and weaknesses of Alexandria’s emergency food system to improve the system and ensure that individuals and families have better access to food, especially healthy food, during times of crisis. This report is scheduled to be released in January 2014.
Further, Rodgers successfully led efforts to promote breastfeeding in Alexandria by working for the passage of a breastfeeding resolution by the City Council in March 2011. She also successfully advocated for the establishment of breastfeeding rooms for new mothers and their babies in government and private business offices. Several of the City’s government buildings now have breastfeeding rooms and in August 2013 a breastfeeding room was established at the Casey Clinic.
Rodgers has also been a leader of efforts for improving the quality and quantity of play spaces in Alexandria so children and youth have more opportunities for active play and exercise. For example, through her leadership, ACOAN sponsored a communitywide assessment of public and private play spaces. Also, ACOAN awarded small grants to improve the quality of some of the playgrounds in Alexandria. She was also instrumental in developing and advocating for an Alexandria play space policy which was adopted by the Alexandria City Council in October 2013. This policy provides a comprehensive framework for addressing the unique needs, importance and benefits of play spaces in our City.
Alexandria’s adults, children and youth have opportunities today and in the future to be healthier as a result of Rodgers’ vision, ability to clearly articulate the problems and solutions, her hard work, and her ability to bring people together to work on reducing childhood obesity and improving access to healthier foods.