There was so much activity underway during the second half of this year to build the workforce of tomorrow that we couldn’t spare a moment to produce a fall edition of the Pittsburgh Regional Compact Quarterly e-newsletter. But no worries: we culled the array of activities and undertaking spanning September through December, and have highlighted a number of note in the newly released Fall/Winter 2011 edition.
When I attended the One Young World Summit in Zurich earlier this year, I had the opportunity to hear Jamie Oliver speak on healthy eating and nutrition, and his efforts through “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” to change the way Americans and the world think about food. At one point he polled the audience on how many in the room could cook a meal from scratch, and by this he meant, not using a microwave, or heating prepared foods. About 50 percent raised their hands. Keep in mind this was a group of well-educated young professionals. He then asked how long we expected to live. Let’s just say the percentage expecting to live to be in their 80’s was VERY high, too high. As Jamie noted, we were dreaming. Diet-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease would be sure to shorten our lives significantly. I came out of his talk wondering, what is being done to address this issue in Pittsburgh? Where is the movement? The answer became clear at the “Let’s Move Pittsburgh” symposium hosted earlier this fall at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, an event co-sponsor and regional leader in the healthy food movement, and I jumped at the opportunity to hear what was going on.
“Let’s Move Pittsburgh” is an effort to capitalize locally on the momentum coming out of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” program that focuses on three pillars of children’s health: healthy food, increased activity, and decreased time in front of screens –TVs, digital games, computers, cell phones. One expert in childhood obesity prevention, Tufts University Ph.D Christina Economos, discussed her project, “Shape Up Somerville,” which aimed to transform the behavior of an entire Massachusetts town by focusing on unnecessary weight gain among its children. She took a holistic approach to this diverse and far-reaching epidemic by identifying stakeholders and how they can work together to reduce childhood obesity in their community. She stressed the need for champions of the cause, focusing on professional development for teachers, and noted that education for parents is just as necessary as for the children. Lastly, she encouraged us not to ignore the importance of policy in creating healthy food norms.
I also learned that Pittsburgh-area child-health organizations and individuals are already well aware of – and hard at work on — these issues. Sponsors The Heinz Endowments, UPMC Health Plan and Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens were joined by child-health leaders from Allegheny General Hospital’s Integrated Medicine Unit, Pitt, Carnegie Mellon and Chatham universities, Hill House, Pittsburgh Public Schools, regional food banks and child-care centers, and many more. They shared their efforts, challenges and aspirations in childhood obesity prevention. I was impressed at the number of groups represented, and hopeful that the “Let’s Move” initiative can help buoy the local mission.
More sobering is the challenge ahead for the region, as schools with high prevalence of poverty tend to have high overweight and obesity rates, and are increasingly strapped for funding and other resources. It’s also a painful irony that communities facing high levels of obesity are also facing hunger.
But there are positive developments on the national level that can help. Sam Kass, Assistant White House Chef and Senior Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives, noted that retail giants like Wal-Mart have agreed to reduce the prices of fresh fruits and vegetables, and to reduce the sodium and sugar content in all products sold in their stores. This alone could reach as many as 40 percent of Americans. Also, the shift from educational talking points that highlight the food pyramid to the more intuitive “My Plate” approach – teaching children to visualize the appropriate portions of different types of foods — seems like a welcome, practical change. National and local efforts to increase nutrition awareness are increasing and I’m hopeful that national policy shifts, coupled with the continued efforts of local child health leaders, will create healthier communities in Pittsburgh and beyond.
Last month, City Year – a nonprofit AmeriCorps national service organization – joined hundreds of volunteers from CSX and the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance to transform Rangers Field in McKees Rocks. The team completely restored dilapidated baseball fields, built picnic tables and benches, and painted murals – in addition to laying sod in one of the fields. CSX is one of the nation’s leading transportation companies, connecting customers to ports, distribution centers and markets across the eastern U.S. Through grassroots volunteerism and focused corporate giving, CSX is committed to supporting the communities where it operates.
The regenerated baseball field at the corner of Shingiss and Sproul streets in McKees Rocks is now a safe place for children to recreate, and another asset for a community working hard to create change for the better. In June, a crowd of more than 100 gathered at McKees Rocks’ Father Ryan Arts Center of Focus on Renewal for the U.S. EPA’s announcement regarding redevelopment of the former P&LE railroad brownfield site. Fueled by the resources of both the public and private sector, this development will see the build-out of a new business park yielding 1,172 new jobs, as well as 642 construction-related jobs, and state and local tax revenues in excess of $13 million.
Check out the video here to see how Rangers Field was transformed. You can also see a photo stream of this and other CSX volunteer projects here.
AASHE aims to engage university administrators, faculty, staff and students — as well as the businesses that serve them – in making sustainable practices the norm in higher education. It urges conservation of resources in campus building construction and maintenance, utility use, food purchasing practices, and more.
This year’s conference begins on a sad note following the Sept. 26 death of Wangari Maathai, who was expected to deliver a keynote address. Maathai was known around the world for her leadership on environmental and anti-poverty issues. She founded the Green Belt Movement to mobilize community consciousness using tree planting as starting point. She earned a master’s in biological sciences from the University of Pittsburgh in 1966, and went on to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.
The conference also features a student summit. It aims to help students to collaborate on sustainability projects on their campuses and in their regions, and to learn best practices and innovations from experts and each other. Bill McKibben, founder of the grassroots environmental campaign 350.org, will address the students.
When University of Michigan graduate students sought out a location for an “out-of-classroom” learning experience, Pittsburgh quickly rose to the top of their list. Annually, budding urban developers and regional planning experts from the university’s urban planning program travel to a different city where they meld academic theory with reality – expanding their scope of knowledge.
Why Pittsburgh for this go-round?
Was it our standing as an internationally recognized leader in public-private cooperation, which has propelled the region’s economic and environmental transformation over the past 30 years? Or perhaps it had to do with the regional economy’s resilience despite a deep global recession. Or maybe it was as simple (or complex) as identifying the key ingredients in Pittsburgh’s “secret sauce” – those elements that have been crucial to the region’s comeback. With employment growth outpacing the national average and that of 14 other benchmark cities for nearly 36 months, tens of thousands of available jobs and a population that is trending younger after a lengthy period of being one of the nation’s oldest, Pittsburgh embodies urban transformation.
For Milwaukee native Mike Westling, a graduate student in urban planning at U-M, the willingness of both civic leaders and citizens in the region to take risks piqued his interest in traveling to Pittsburgh and exploring it as a model of urban redevelopment.
“You can have all of the great ideas in the world, but unless you’re willing to take risks, financial or otherwise, achievements will not be realized,” said Westling. “If people would come to Pittsburgh and see what it has become – see what taking risks can lead to – that could really go a long way to convincing people in other cities, especially politicians, that risks are necessary to get a pay-out down the road.”
MJ Tocci, principal of Trial Run Inc. and the co-founder and director of a new academy at Carnegie Mellon University designed to enhance women’s negotiation skills – the first program of its kind in the country – received the 2011 Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Award on Monday, Sept. 19 in front of a record-breaking crowd of 900-plus at the Westin Convention Center Hotel, Downtown.
Also recognized was Jennifer L. Cairns, recipient of the new ATHENA Young Professional Award for women leaders age 35 and younger. Cairns is just the second woman to become a partner at McGuire Woods’ Pittsburgh office, where she specializes in litigation and risk management in the pharmaceutical industry. (Scroll down to see our Flickr gallery of images from the event, as well as a link to a third video of nominees.)
Named after the Greek goddess of strength and wisdom, the ATHENA award is unique among other regional honors for women in business because of its focus on developing the next generation of women leaders through mentorship.
As a principal at Trial Run, Inc., Tocci coaches attorneys on effective communication, litigation skills, persuasion and negotiations. Her clients range from the U.S. Navy to international law firms, government agencies and businesses Additionally, she is the founder of Fulcrum Advisors, which helps organizations recruit, retain and promote talented women. Tocci, and Dr. Linda Babcock are building the Women’s Negotiation Academy at Carnegie Mellon University under PROGRESS. PROGRESS, on whose advisory board MJ serves, empowers women and girls to negotiate for what they want, need and deserve.
Cairns is a founding member of McGuire Woods’ Women’s Leadership Initiative, which provides professional development for women in the firm and opportunities for philanthropic giving. Cairns has mentored students through Duquesne University’s CLAAY program, and is active with the Girl Scouts, Dress for Success and the Special Olympics. She also plays defensive back with the Pittsburgh Passion, a full-contact football franchise that’s part of a 62-team North American league.
“Our population is not only growing in size, but it’s growing younger as more 20- and 30-year-olds choose to live and work here,” said Maris Bondi, chair of the 2011 ATHENA Award Host Committee. “Pittsburgh is attracting and retaining younger talent. It’s a place with a future for individuals who will be tomorrow’s changemakers and leaders.”
The Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Award Luncheon maintains its standing as one of the largest stand-alone events of its kind among some 500 presented annually across the globe in affiliation with ATHENA International. Check out the videos above of the awards recipients, and click here to watch a video of the six ATHENA Award finalists, who include Susan Baker Shipley, Kathleen Hower, Sister Fidelis McDonough, Brenda Tate and Kim Tillotson Fleming. You can also check out our Flickr photo gallery, below.