Phipps wants families to pledge to fill 10,000 Tables

When you think healthy eating, you usually think of eating more veggies or cutting out the soda.

But eating meals together as a family is just as important, according to Richard Piacentini, executive director of Phipps Conservatory.

When last month's One Young World Summit in Pittsburgh was in the planning stages, Chef Jamie Oliver notified planners that he wanted to launch a pledge of some sort that would link Pittsburghers to his Food Revolution, the Brit's personal crusade to save America's health by changing eating habits.

Mr. Piacentini said he and his associates kicked around a number of ideas but finally settled on a family mealtime pledge that they dubbed "10,000 Tables" in hopes of prompting that many Pittsburgh-area families to promise they'll eat a family meal together at least once a week. (To sign up, go to

Mr. Piacentini is one of the leaders from area businesses, charities, schools and hospitals who joined together last year to start Let's Move Pittsburgh, an offshoot of first lady Michelle Obama's efforts to promote healthy eating, increased exercise and decreased screen time.

Regarding 10,000 Tables, "We wanted a number that was challenging but also doable," Mr. Piacentini said, noting he sees the initiative as a way of promoting "more home-cooked meals, which give people more control over the ingredients." He also hopes to reach children up to age 8 because those are such crucial habit-forming years.

"There's lots of research indicating that when families have conversations instead of listening to their iPhones, it has an impact on their health and on how much food they eat," he said.

Once people sign up, they'll get e-mails about shopping wisely, growing healthy ingredients at home, preparing wholesome family meals and inspiring positive lifestyle changes, as well as notifications about free community events and raffles. Let's Move Pittsburgh hopes to reach the 10,000 mark around this time next year. The task force will meet monthly to evaluate the success of the initiative and devise ways to reach more families.

One of the early pledgers is Melinda Guinn of Fox Chapel, who already eats dinner nearly every night with her husband and two young daughters, but she signed up anyhow as a "way to show support and enthusiasm for local food, healthy food and the slow food movement."

And the movement isn't limited to families. Singles can sign up, too -- as did Cavan Patterson of Lawrenceville, who with his brother, Tom, owns Wild Purveyors, a wholesaler of wild foods and organic produce.

"I'm not married and I don't have kids, but my friends are my family," he said, noting he'll try to gather friends for a Sunday meal each week as a way to fulfill his pledge.

Rebecca Maclean of Highland Park also signed up her family -- husband Dan Thompson, 9-year-old son Duncan Rieger and 4-year-old daughter Emmaline Thompson. She's been a Jamie Oliver fan for a long time and has even written a couple pieces for his Food Revolution website. Even though the family eats dinner together frequently, she sees this pledge as a way to "drive home to my kids that other people think this is important, too."

However, if she truly intends to carry out this pledge, "it would be helpful to actually clear off the dining room table more often," she said, laughing.

Rebecca Sodergren:


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