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Civic Impact

The family that eats together ... could have 10,000 new friends via Jamie Oliver


The benefits for families who eat home-cooked meals together and actually talk to each other, with the television off, are clear. According to the national Let’s Move! Campaign to decrease childhood obesity -- including Let's Move! Pittsburgh -- Americans already eat 31 percent more calories than we did in 1970, including 56 percent more fats and oils and 14 percent more sugars or sweeteners. All that fast food is a big contributor to obesity in kids. Eating home-cooked food together, on the other hand, teaches kids what and how to eat.
 
The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (you have their cookbook, don't you?) has found 68 scientific studies that showed “the more a family ate together the less children consumed dietary components thought to be harmful to health."
 
And most home-cooking is simply healthier for you, says Jamie Oliver, famed British chef and television personality. He was in town this month to challenge attendees at the One Young World conference, and the world, to take action on this issue by joining his "Food Revolution." "Inspired by Jamie Oliver," says Liz Fetchin, Let's Move! Pittsburgh created 10,000 Tables, which aims to get 10,000 Pittsburgh families to add one more home-cooked, television-free meal to each week. Fetchin, spokesperson for Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (whose head, Richard V. Piacentini, directs Let's Move! Pittsburgh), says the group wanted to come up with a reasonable initiative that could be accomplished over the next year.

Other local organizations also joined in. The City of Pittsburgh aims to increase farmers markets, bikeways and trails, and to increase participation in its CityFit Wellness at Work initiative for employees. Whole Foods will work through its school garden grant program, while the Eat'n Park Hospitality Group's LifeSmiles program will continue a $1 million/20,000 volunteer-hour investment in health and wellness initiatives for families. UPMC's Dining Smart program in 2013 will seek to bring healthier meal and vending choices to its more than 50,000 employees and promote it to other employers, and Propel Schools will increase its use of healthy food choices and My Plate Guidelines for its students.
 
"Most families are eating in front of the TV or are eating separately -- it's because they are so busy," Fetchin allows. Let's Move! hopes this movement to cook at home and eat together will encourage families to enjoy the health benefits more often.
 
Is the participation of 10,000 families realistic? "We sure hope so," Fetchin says. "We think that it will really catch on. We hope to do a lot of outreach," including to neighborhoods where fresh food is not as readily available. Let's Move! soon will be handing out recipes and shopping lists at Giant Eagles and other locations throughout the area, and will be offering cooking demonstrations there and elsewhere.
 
Jamie Oliver has not announced plans to come back to Pittsburgh yet, but, says Fetchin, Let's Move! hopes 10,000 Tables will be so successful that Oliver will be inspired to return to celebrate his Food Revolution again in Pittsburgh.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Liz Fetchin, Let's Move! Pittsburgh
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