One Young World: Chef Jamie Oliver pledges healthful impact in Pittsburgh


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Details are to start coming together today on how celebrity chef and food activist Jamie Oliver's global Food Revolution will help Pittsburghers eat and live healthier over the next year.

Mr. Oliver, a counselor for the 1,300 delegates from 180 countries who are here for the One Young World Summit, will lead a special session this morning that will include local ambassadors. They'll work with his Jamie Oliver Food Foundation's Food Revolution to help monitor and boost healthy initiatives already underway.

"A lot of what our group is about is about facilitating local activism," said Mr. Oliver at a news conference Thursday kicking off the Summit at the edible rooftop garden at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Oakland. Wearing a black leather jacket over a blue-and-red flannel shirt and black jeans, and at one point sipping a grapefruit juice with Pittsburgh Seltzer, the 37-year-old Brit was politely swarmed by at least one bee, as well as local media and food people, many of whom know and like him from his cookbooks and television shows.

Mr. Oliver frequently referred to his time in Huntington, W.Va., for his 2010 ABC reality show "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution," which documented his not-always-welcome efforts to improve school lunches and residents' diets in general in what had been called the unhealthiest city in America.

He happily reported that is no longer the case and said, "They have fixed themselves. I can take no credit."

As he visited Pittsburgh for the first time, he wasn't talking about fixing anything as much as "stirring things up" and "bringing people together."

"This is not a city that's broken," Mr. Oliver said in remarks in which he praised Pittsburgh's evolution and many of the good things happening here. "The Food Revolution for me is kind of a version of what happens here," he said, referring to the rooftop garden as an example.

Asked about details of the Food Revolution coming to Pittsburgh, he said, "I can't answer your question particularly brilliantly," but said details will start to emerge in coming weeks. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said his office would keep the press and the public posted.

This is the second One Young World summit for Mr. Oliver, who attended last year's in Zurich, where he focused, as he will this time, on obesity and other global food issues.

"I come back because this is truly inspiring," he said.

His passion for helping people eat better was evident. "The problem I have with diet-related disease is, it's not very glamorous," he said. "No one gets shot," yet it slowly and quietly is the biggest killer in the United States and Great Britain.

Now, he said, more of the world's people are dying from overeating than from hunger, and so his messages at the summit will vary depending on the countries the delegates are from. But, "At the heart of everything I do, it's all about food education."

He was joined at Phipps by One Young World co-founders David Jones and Kate Robertson, who called Mr. Oliver "one of the most courageous leaders Britain has ever produced." Also at the event were local leaders in health care, food, government and eduction, who talked about healthier-eating initiatives that are under way, as well as new ones and new goals.

Phipps Executive Director Richard V. Piacentini briefly announced "10,000 Tables," a program of Let's Move Pittsburgh that will encourage families in the region "to sit down together at least once a week for an entire year to enjoy a screen-time-free, home-cooked meal."

Mr. Piacentini said this push to get 10,000 families to pledge to shop, grow, cook and eat together would answer Mr. Oliver's call for habits that make people and communities healthier.

People can learn more about it and pledge to be part of it at www.letsmovepittsburgh.org/10000_tables.php. They'll report how many meals they eat together now and set goals for more. This will tie in with other aspects of Let's Move Pittsburgh and other local projects.

Mr. Ravenstahl spoke of continuing to grow more community gardens, farmers markets and bike lanes in city neighborhoods, as well as growing his CityFit Wellness at Work program, under which city employees have collectively lost 2,000 pounds.

Michael Parkinson, the senior medical director of health and productivity at UPMC, said its "Dining Smart" program will be deployed at all of its facilities.

Mid-Atlantic region president Scott Allshouse touted Whole Foods programs to put 2,013 salad bars in schools by next year and help more schools grow their own produce. "We're almost at a tipping point where unhealthy food will be held accountable for what it's doing to our children and to our lives."

Eat'n Park's Brooks Broadhurst talked about his company's fitUnited program, and Superintendent Carol Wooten talked about Propel Schools' goals to increase food education and physical activity for students.

"Clearly you've been doing some incredible things," said Mr. Oliver, noting about his and the Food Revolution's involvement, "This is just an excuse to push it a little. ... There's so much more we can do."

neigh_city - lifestyle

Bob Batz Jr.: bbatz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1930. Twitter: @bobbatzjr.


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