This article is sponsored by Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund. To learn more about the Illumination Fund and its efforts to transform the urban landscape through healthy food initiatives, visit lmtilluminationfund.org.
Three million people.
That's how many New Yorkers live in "food deserts," low-income areas where residents lack access to healthy food like fresh fruit and vegetables. These are pretty alarming figures in a city noted for its vast culinary landscape.
Fortunately, the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund is doing its best to help address food disparity issues in these afflicted areas, a condition the federal government labels "food insecurity." Giving neighborhoods access to healthy food, it turns out, goes far beyond just improving residents' health -- it also creates economic opportunity, supports child development and builds strong communities.
The Illumination Fund has long been involved in the healthy foods space in New York, having partnered with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to launch the NYC Green Cart Initiative in 2008. The first in a series of novel strategies that expand availability of healthy foods and promote healthy choices through systematic change and partnerships, the Green Cart program has resulted in 500 street vendors selling fresh produce in previously underserved neighborhoods, which has led to a decrease in diet-related diseases and 900 new jobs.
Building on its previous giving to the healthy foods space, the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund launched its Healthy Food & Community Change initiative on February 14, 2013 at a forum at Teachers College, Columbia University. The foundation announced a commitment of $15 million over five years to healthy food initiatives across New York City -– making it one of the largest donors addressing these problems in The Big Apple.
The spirited and in-depth discussion, moderated by Madelyn Fernstrom, Diet and Nutrition Editor from NBC’s TODAY Show, focused on ways to develop evidence-based programs and policies that encourage healthier diets and lifestyles while making healthy foods accessible and affordable to underserved communities. Elected officials Cory Booker, Christine Quinn and Scott Stringer were on hand to discuss their visions for a successful and vibrant food community and how best to translate this into reality.
Researchers, practitioners, and leaders in nutrition, education, and food policy also engaged in discussion about the current food environment, examined initiatives that have produced promising outcomes, and discussed strategies for furnishing public officials with evidence to support policies that lead to improved health for all, including those in communities with little or difficult access to nutritious foods.
Finally, the inaugural grantees of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund’s “Healthy Food & Community Change” initiative were introduced to speak about the importance of their work in the healthy food space.
The new initiative will target programs in high-need neighborhoods, creating hubs of activity and community engagement. Programs will be in collaboration with community-based organizations, public agencies, and academic institutions. The Illumination Fund is setting out to inspire healthier communities in NYC through:
- Teachers College, Columbia University: A flagship component of the initiative is the establishment of the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy at Teachers College, Columbia University. The new center will provide cutting-edge research, policy evaluation and training for the next generation of nutrition professionals.
- Neighborhood-based Strategies: The Illumination Fund will support community food projects in underserved neighborhoods, including City Harvest, LISC, community development corporations, NYC Green Cart partners and others.
- Public-Private Partnerships: The Illumination Fund will support creative public-private partnerships that improve access to and education about healthy foods in New York City, with organizations such as Wholesome Wave, New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, New York City Coalition Against Hunger and Share Our Strength.
- Good Neighbor Grants: The Illumination Fund will provide grants for impactful programs in the area of hunger/food security and nutrition education, including Wellness in the Schools and the United Way of NYC.
This commitment reflects the Illumination Fund’s principles of using philanthropy and public-private partnerships to empower community change, and demonstrates Laurie Tisch’s commitment to improving the well-being and quality of life of New Yorkers. To learn more about the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, visit: lmtilluminationfund.org.