May 4, 2017

Featuring: Marla Hollander of Voices for Healthy Kids

On April 18, the Montgomery County Council unanimously approved Bill 1-17 that will expand healthy drinks and snacks offered in county vending machines. It was a terrific victory for Sugar Free Kids Maryland, one that took several years of planning, lobbying and promoting.

Several advocacy groups and organizations were involved in championing this legislation, including the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Action Network, Youth Activism Project and many others.

Several individuals were invested in the cause at both personal and professional levels. Such was the case for Marla Hollander, who supports Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The collaboration is working with communities across the nation to ensure that children have access to healthy food and physical activity where they live, learn and play. As the national partnerships manager, Marla fosters collaboration with other national organizations to bring additional assets and resources to Voices for Healthy Kids advocacy efforts.

As a Montgomery County resident and mother of two children, the healthy vending bill was of utmost importance on a personal level. She sits on the board of Real Food for Kids Montgomery to advocate for healthier school food options across the county. She also volunteers for Moms Rising, a national network of mothers, who bring their voices and real world experiences straight to our local, state and national leaders.

Marla took personal time to testify in front of the Montgomery County Council, letting them know how important healthy options are to her and her family.

“By Marla testifying as a mother and member of Moms Rising, it showed Montgomery County decision makers that we have the support of strong groups of constituents, who both live and work in their community,” said Sugar Free Kids Maryland Executive Director Shawn McIntosh. “It was the collective voice of our coalition members that helped push the healthy vending legislation.”

“There’s nothing more satisfying than working within your community and working for social change,” said Marla. “It’s rewarding to know that you had an impact on a community decision that influences the health of an entire county.”

With the support of Marla and other concerned citizens and groups, the legislation was unanimously passed and the healthy choice is now an easier choice for those who live, work and play in Montgomery County.

“I got a note in the mail yesterday from (bill sponsor) Councilmember George Leventhal, thanking me for my testimony,” said Marla. “It made me feel so proud to be of service to my community and know that I’m helping make each day healthier for all children!”