As part of a $15 million initiative by the Tisch Illumination Fund to combat hunger, philanthropist Laurie Tisch has donated $3.5 million to Columbia University's Teachers College to establish a food policy research center.

Launched at an event on Thursday, the gift will be used to help research on how to make healthier foods more accessible in local communities where better options aren’t always available. The donation will help enhance current food policy research at Teachers College in New York.

Pamela Koch, the director of the new Center for Food, Education, and Policy and a professor of nutrition education at Teachers College, said the funding will be used to support “new faculty down the line and doctoral students to be able to do research in the area that we want to focus on. There’s a lot of work going on trying to increase access to food for people. The money will also be put toward identifying the most effective ways to teach food skills like cooking and gardening."

“When people have access to food and are getting really good-quality, motivational messages, that will really make them believe that healthy eating is worth it,” Koch added.

The event marking the launch included a number of city officials who count food and healthy eating as important items on their agendas, including Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, City Council member and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn, and USDA food official Kevin Concannon. 

“Public officials like Christine Quinn and Cory Booker want to know where public dollars can make a difference, and they are making their decisions based on what information is out there,” Tisch said.

Koch said that she hopes the new center will eventually help form public policy with solid evidence on how programs like healthy bodegas and farmers markets can influence the community.

“We’re really excited and thankful for the gift,” Koch said.

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