"How do you tell someone from Pittsburgh that their grandma's pierogies aren't healthy?"
That question goes to the heart of the challenge 30-year-old Liz Fetchin, the spokeswoman for the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, faces in fighting obesity in Pittsburgh.
Ms. Fetchin of Shaler was one of a large contingent of locals who attended One Young World, where she had the opportunity to learn about challenges with food from around the world and interact with celebrity chef and food activist Jamie Oliver.
Phipps is the home base of Let's Move Pittsburgh, the local branch of the national campaign spearheaded by first lady Michelle Obama to fight childhood obesity. In that vein, Ms. Fetchin has helped to set up an information clearinghouse to teach parents and caregivers where to purchase healthy ingredients and how to cook them.
In tandem with Mr. Oliver's Food Revolution, Ms. Fetchin and Phipps launched 10,000 Tables, a campaign to get 10,000 families to prepare and eat one meal a week without the distraction of television or phones.
Beyond the cultural challenge of battling obesity in a city that prides itself on fries on its salads, fries on its sandwiches and butter-drenched pierogies, Ms. Fetchin cited the problem of so-called food deserts -- neighborhoods that lack access to grocery stores and farmer's markets. That, paired with a lack of knowledge about cooking and nutrition, underlies the childhood obesity epidemic.
But in interacting with people from all over the world, she heard from delegates that the problem of obesity takes a backseat to the issue of hunger.
- Age: 30
- Hometown: Shaler
- Occupation: marketing and communications manager, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden
- Vision: "If there's something you feel passionate about, start doing something about it."
"There's a huge issue with food waste. There's plenty of food in the world to feed everyone, so what is the problem? How can we solve that?" she asked.
And, perhaps oxymoronically, "Sometimes the problem of hunger and obesity go hand-in-hand," she said. "There are neighborhoods where the only food available are high calories, high in sugars, high in fats. So it's the only thing that certain communities can afford. So not only are they malnourished, they're obese, and I think that that's an issue in Pittsburgh."
It's also an issue, she learned, in Yemen, where a delegate told her that many people within cities are obese, while hunger is a problem that also persists.
Ms. Fetchin said she'll leave the summit with a new global perspective on the issues she's trying to address locally and with a dose of energy and inspiration.
"The people who have been in this room for the past three days are some of the most energetic and intelligent people I've ever met," she said.
The summit pushed her to realize: "If there's something you feel passionate about, start doing something about it."
Moriah Balingit: email@example.com, 412-264-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee. First Published October 22, 2012 4:00 AM