The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund | Teachers College Columbia University

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A Gift from the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund Supports Healthier Communities and TC's Capital Projects

The gift from TC’s Board Vice Chair Emerita has established the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy at the College, seeded TC’s capital projects and matched the Board’s support for infrastructure.

The gift from TC’s Board Vice Chair Emerita has established the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy at the College, seeded TC’s capital projects and matched the Board’s support for infrastructure.


The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, headed by Laurie M. Tisch, made a $10 million gift to Teachers College in 2012. Five million dollars of the gift established the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy at the College and seeded TC’s capital projects.

In addition to support for the Center, the other half of Tisch’s gift has matched 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 and Vice Chair Emerita of TC’s Board of Trustees.  

The Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy is a flagship component of the Illumination Fund’s five-year $15 million Healthy Food & Community Change initiative, which supports novel strategies to increase access, availability, affordability, and knowledge of healthy foods and promote healthy choices. The initiatives target programs in New York City’s high-need neighborhoods, creating hubs of activities and community engagement.

“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 Healthy Food & Community Change initiative, the Illumination Fund aims to inspire healthier communities.”

At a conference to launch the center, Teachers College President Fuhrman said, “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.”

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 has launched a new era for the College's program and is providing cutting-edge research, policy evaluation and training for the next generation of nutrition professionals.
“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,” said Fuhrman. “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.” 

The Center uniquely focuses on integrating nutrition education and policy, particularly benefiting 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, the Center conducts groundbreaking research and evaluations that successfully link education and policy.

In its first major report, the Center documented the lack of quality nutrition education programs in New York City schools and called for a doubling of programs provided by outside experts. The Tisch Center has also co-convened a New York City alliance for renewal of a strong federal Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act that would best serve low-income children and families.

It also works alongside the other healthy food and community change organizations supported by the Illumination Fund, including 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 Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy, explained, “we are working 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.”

In addition to community and philanthropic organizations, 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 the practical skills for growing food, making healthy choices, and cooking.” The Center shares 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 reflected her 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. Generous support of the Tisch Challenge includes gifts from James W.B. Benkard, the Cleveland H. Dodge Foundation, Antonia M. Grumbach, Leslie M. Nelson and Mitchell J. Nelson, E. John Rosenwald, Jr., Marla L. Schaefer, Nancy K. Simpkins, Camilla and George D. Smith, Joshua N. Solomon, Valerie R. Wayne, and Steven R. Wechsler.

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 hundreds of 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. 

Learn more about the Illumination Fund and its Healthy Food & Community Change initiative.

(Published 2/26/2013)

Published Thursday, May. 1, 2014