About The Tisch CenterThe Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy at Teachers College Columbia University, works with policy makers, program developers, and community stakeholders to increase access to healthy foods, to combat the over-abundance of unhealthy foods, and to promote a sustainable food system. The Center’s unique focus combines policy change with nutrition education in order to encourage healthier and more sustainable food choices. The Center also serves as the hub for multidisciplinary research in nutrition and health while preparing the next generation of food and nutrition professionals and leaders.
The diagram provides a pictorial overview of what the Center does.
Why the Food System as the FoundationThe food system serves as the basis of everything we do, as being able to produce food that will promote both ecological sustainability as well as personal health has to be of upmost importance in our current world. The current issues of a growing population, climate change, huge health care costs, and disintegrating communities are forecasted to get worse in the coming decades if thoughtful actions that do consider the food system are not taken soon. But, there is reason to be hopeful.
Food Policies Are Changing
Food policies have started to change for the better and there is a growing movement to keep making positive change. In New York City, access to healthy foods is improving in the communities that need it most. There are GreenCarts that have added over 500 more places to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), community gardens, urban farms, school gardens are all on the increase. There are also programs to help bodegas (corner stores) and supermarkets to carry more fresh, whole foods that are ingredients for at home preparation.
There have also been policies that mandate calorie levels be post in chain restaurants, new guidelines for school meals, and bans on using trans-fats in foods served institutions. There have been calls for decreasing marketing of unhealthy foods, labeling food produced with genetically modified organisms, and decreasing access and portion size of unhealthy foods such as sugar sweetened beverages. All policies that would improve the food environment. Yet, even with all of this positive momentum, much needs to be done to assure that food policies keep moving in the right direction. Large food companies that manipulate ingredients to produce the most processed and unhealthful food products routinely undermining progress toward true policy change. Also, tight economic times means that funding for policies and programs that serve communities that need them most is scarce.
Food Information and Education is on the Increase
In addition to policies and initiatives that change the food environment, education and information about food is at an all time high. Major news media sources and scientific publication cover issues about food from how diet is connected to health, to the ecological threats on our food system issues. Additionally, programs for school children and community members that educate people about food and re-teach people learn how to cook nourishing meals from whole foods is on the increase.
Yet, despite this, many people are getting the marketing messages from food industry that promote overly processed food products are too often the message that is in the forefront of people’s minds.
Integrating Policy Change and Education
The unique focus of the Center is to combine together policies and initiatives that increase access to food with good quality effective nutrition education. We do this by building on our work on schools and using schools as a hub. Imagine a school where children, parents, and the rest of the school community learn about the locations of GreenCarts in their community, have access to the GreenCart cookbook. They also learn about where they can find farmers markets, community supported agriculture sites, and community gardens. This all happens at the same time as the school also incorporates nutrition education that includes understanding how fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes promote health while giving students experiences growing food in their school garden and experiencing cooking with basic whole ingredients. This would have the potential to change the community now, and change the health of the students for the rest of their lives.