The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund

The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund supports projects in education, the arts, health and public service. However, it’s perhaps best known for the Green Carts campaign, a multi-level strategy to respond to food “deserts” in New York City. Social scientists define these “deserts” as areas where fresh produce is hard to find and where the incidence of obesity and diabetes is very high.

Starting with a $1.5 million seed grant, Ms. Tisch worked with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city staff to create the Green Carts program, which sells fruit and vegetables in areas that are underserved. By 2012, there were 524 active cart permits, translating to employment for 900 people. According to Ms. Tisch, the project also encourages “entrepreneurship, with each vendor owning and operating their individual carts.”

In the second stage of the project, Ms. Tisch funded a new cookbook with recipes from chefs around the city. The idea, she says, is to make recipes and information about fresh produce just as accessible as the fruits and vegetables themselves. The Green Cart vendors distribute the cookbooks for free (10,000 have been printed) while on their rounds.

In a third stage of the project, a new documentary called The Apple Pushers had its premiere in 2011. The film, which looked at the Green Carts project in detail, was also backed by Ms. Tisch. She wanted to build public knowledge and support for the project, broadening impact by encouraging other communities to consider their own versions of the Green Cart model. So far, Ms. Tisch says, eight other cities have shown interest and the U.S.D.A. has screened the documentary for policy leaders and heads of federal agencies in Washington DC.

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