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The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund Announces a $10 Million Gift to Teachers College

The gift from TC's Board Vice Chair's establishes a new Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy at the College, seeds TC's capital projects and matches the Board's support for infrastructure.
The gift from TC’s Board Vice Chair’s establishes a new Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy at the College, seeds TC’s capital projects and matches the Board’s support for infrastructure.

The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, headed by Laurie M. Tisch, has made a gift to Teachers College of $10 million. Five million dollars of the gift establishes the new Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy at the College and seeds TC’s capital projects.

In addition to support for the Center, the other half of Tisch’s gift will match contributions by other members of TC’s Board to support renovations of the College’s physical infrastructure and major high-technology upgrades of classrooms.

Tisch, President of the Illumination Fund, is a long-time supporter of the College who serves as Vice Chair of TC’s Board of Trustees.

The Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy will serve as a flagship component of the Illumination Fund’s new five-year $15 million Healthy Food & Community Change initiative, which will support novel strategies to increase access, availability, affordability, and knowledge of healthy foods and promote healthy choices. The initiatives specifically will target programs in New York City’s high-need neighborhoods, creating hubs of activities and community engagement. Tisch unveiled the initiative and its grantees this past week at a major food and nutrition policy conference at TC that was also sponsored by the Illumination Fund. The Healthy Food & Community Change initiative establishes the Illumination Fund as one of the largest donors addressing these problems in New York City.

“The issues are complex, and there’s no magic bullet,” said Tisch. “But there are strategies that have demonstrated progress and promise. We believe that the way to move forward is to empower and engage communities, foster collaboration, and provide the tools to implement change. With our new Healthy Food & Community Change initiative, the Illumination Fund aims to inspire healthier communities.”

The conference launching the Center included panels with New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, and experts from academia, philanthropy, government, and nonprofit organizations.  Madelyn Fernstrom, Diet and Nutrition Editor of NBC’s TODAY show, served as moderator, and the conference was streamed live on

Teachers College was the birthplace for the field of nutrition education more than 100 years ago. The College published the country's first scholarly textbook in nutrition education, created the first nutrition education lab, and helped found the American Society of Nutrition. The Center for Food Education & Policy launches a new era for the College's program and will provide cutting-edge research, policy evaluation and training for the next generation of nutrition professionals.
“Laurie Tisch's passionate commitment to eliminate health disparities in New York City is reflected in her philanthropic strategy to invest in innovative programs that empower communities with healthier food choices,” said Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman. “We at TC are honored that she has made us a key partner in her Healthy Food & Community Change initiative, and we are enormously grateful for her inspiring gift to establish the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy at Teachers College. We are confident that her gift will galvanize our efforts to make Teachers College a model for preparing top-flight nutrition professionals and for leveraging groundbreaking nutrition research into more effective food policies. Through better access to and education about food, the Laurie M. Tisch Center also will help to transform the communities that TC and the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund serve.”

Isobel Contento, Mary Swartz Rose Professor of Nutrition Education at TC, said the new Center will have “a unique focus to integrate nutrition education and policy.” She said the Center would particularly benefit from the expertise of faculty members in the College’s departments of Education Policy and Social Analysis, and Health and Behavioral Studies.

“With these resources, we expect to conduct groundbreaking research and evaluations that successfully link education and policy,” Contento said. “We also look forward to working alongside the other healthy food and community change organizations supported by the Illumination Fund.” The latter include Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC NYC), a nonprofit that combines corporate, government and philanthropic resources to help revitalize distressed neighborhoods; City Harvest: Wholesome Wave; the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation; the NYC Coalition Against Hunger, Wellness in the Schools; and Share Our Strength.

Pam Koch, Adjunct Associate Professor of Nutrition Education and Executive Director of the new Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy, explained, “we will work in communities that have programs such as GreenCarts, Farmers’ Markets, and Healthy Bodegas in order to evaluate what kinds of educational messages will get more people to choose these healthier options. Combining policies that increase access with education makes healthy eating meaningful and tangible to people.”

Koch added that “schools can serve as a hub for providing motivational education about why healthy eating is worth it, and teaching children and parents practical skills for growing food, making healthy choices, and cooking.” The Center will share its research results with elected officials to influence food policy and assure that increased access to healthy food is accompanied by effective food and nutrition education.

Tisch’s gift to support the College’s physical infrastructure constitutes a call to action to TC’s Board. It reflects Tisch’s understanding that, for the College’s faculty and students to make the greatest impact, they must work in a state-of-the-art environment with high-tech tools and spaces – and that students, in particular, must become fluent in the learning technologies they are researching and creating.

The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund (LMTIF) is a New York City-based foundation that strives to improve access and opportunity for all New Yorkers. Founded in 2007 by philanthropist Laurie M. Tisch, the Illumination Fund plays an active role in supporting innovative approaches to healthy food, education, the arts, and civic service in order to illuminate strategies that transform our urban landscape. The Illumination Fund’s support of healthy food programs in New York began in 2008 with a partnership with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to launch the NYC Green Cart initiative. Today, there are approximately 500 street vendors selling fresh produce in neighborhoods that previously had limited access to healthy foods, creating hundreds of jobs and setting a new national standard for health promotion and economic opportunity that is being adapted in other cities.

Find out more about the Illumination Fund and its Healthy Food & Community Change initiative, visit

Published Thursday, May. 1, 2014


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