Regal knows that there are persistent stereotypes about food stamps and poverty but part of his job is to educate the community about the realities of not having enough food.

In the mid-1980s he was instrumental in organizing a successful campaign to bring the National School Breakfast Program to Pittsburgh Public Schools. Now he is working with the City of Pittsburgh to expand access to free summer meals at community sites across the city. And those school breakfasts? He wants more of them.

While Regal appreciates the many positives about the health of the Pittsburgh community, he laments the shortcomings.

“Too many people are comfortable with the idea that communities like Duquesne, Braddock and Homewood-Brushton are desperately poor. They lack the most basic kinds of resources like a place to shop for groceries, basic housing, an adequate safety net to make sure that folks in need are taken care of, bus service so that people can get to jobs, health insurance. “

And we must mention: Dr. Jeanette South-Paul of the East Liberty Family Health Care Center is a strong advocate for underserved families and the elimination of health disparities. A practicing physician, she works as a director in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh on projects such as educating minority women on cardiovascular disease and assessing barriers to care for teen mothers.

Photo by Bill Stiner

Photo by Bill Stiner

Advocating for more cooking, less food waste

Leah Lizarondo would argue that yes, you do have time to cook a healthy dinner. “Take a close look at where you really put your time. On average, Americans spend about 27 minutes a day on food preparation but almost 2.5 hours watching TV,” she says.

Her advice? Find time to cook. It’s a good first step to good health.

Leah blogs about food online at Brazen Kitchen, she writes about food and more for NEXTpittsburgh and other local publications and has written for NPR and Oprah.com.

Last month she spoke at the Helping Women Helps the World Lecture Series with Dr. Karen Hacker about “The Crossroads of Food, Health and Innovation.”

“I love that the topic was food, health and innovation—three points whose intersection is where my sweet spot lies,” she says.

As a local ambassador for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and a Farm-to-Table advocate, Lizarondo is passionate about making sure the fresh food produced here actually gets used.

Food stamps at farmers’ markets? Yes. More focus on local farming? Great. But in her TEDx talk last year, Lizarondo addressed what she feels is the final disconnect in the farm-to-table initiative—people aren’t cooking anymore and 30 to 40% of the fresh produce is going to waste.

“The problem is not just ensuring we have enough supply. Those who have access need to cook again, to use this abundance of produce that we have. We also need to redirect food that is about to go to waste to those who need it, those who are food insecure,” she says.

This year, Lizarondo and her friend Gisele Fetterman, the dynamic founder of Braddock’s Free Store, plan to launch 412FoodRescue, a new initiative that will essentially “rescue” fresh, perishable food that often goes to waste at places like grocery stores and restaurants and redistribute them to organizations that work in Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods most affected by poverty. This project will supplement the outstanding work being done by existing agencies like the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

“412 Food Rescue will use technology to facilitate rapid response by linking donors, recipients, our trucks and volunteers. Think Uber for food rescue with a UPS twist,” says Lizarondo. 412 Food Rescue is one of the challenges that developers will take on in next month’s Steel City Codefest.

As for cooking? “We need to think like marketers—we need to “train” people how to use our product (vegetables and produce) so that they use them more,” says Lizarondo.

That’s where her soon-to-be launched social enterprise comes into play. Lizarondo is currently working with Idea Foundry to incubate the project and is scheduled to launch later this year. Lizarondo’s goal? “To make food education accessible to every household in our city.”