Community forum on ‘built environment’ kicks off Earth Week at Mercyhurst

Nancy Huehnergarth

“New Ways to Change Erie’s Environment” is the theme of this year’s Earth Week activities at Mercyhurst University. With the focus on public health and environmental connections, especially access to healthy foods and physical activity in homes and neighborhoods, the university hosts two speakers with national impact along with a panel discussion of community leaders on fostering a healthier Erie environment.

Nancy Huehnergarth, executive director of the New York State Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Alliance (NYSHEPA), kicks off the two-day series with a presentation, “Creating a Healthy Environment: Lessons from New York,” on Earth Day, Monday, April 22.

Rosalind Creasy, the national expert who coined the term “edible landscaping,” speaks on “Transforming your Home and Health through Edible Landscaping” on Tuesday, April 23.(See separate release on Creasy.)

Both events are at 7 p.m. in Taylor Little Theatre and are free and open to the public. They are sponsored by the Mercyhurst Sustainability Office, Mercyhurst Institute for Public Health and the Evelyn Lincoln Institute for Ethics and Society in partnership with the Erie County Department of Health.

Huehnergarth’s talk will be preceded by a panel discussion on current efforts being taken to foster a healthier Erie environment. The discussion will be led by Andy Glass, director of the Erie County Department of Health, and feature the following guests:

  • Ben Pratt, director of research, Erie Regional Chamber & Growth Partnership
  • Eric Brozell, Bike Erie, Lake Erie Bicycling Club
  • Kim Beers, Safe & Healthy Communities coordinator, Erie County Department of Health
  • John Morgan - Erie County Department of Planning and Erie Metropolitan Planning Organization
  • Brenda Sandberg, director, City of Erie Department of Community & Economic Development.

Following their discussion, Huehnergarth will describe New York models that Erie could adopt to make the built environment safer and healthier, including highways, parks, homes and workplaces. Bicyclists, walkers, neighborhood residents and cities can benefit from improved urban planning and safety measures through policy change. The entire community benefits from initiatives that can range from government procurement policies, policies that improve workplace food and healthy restaurant initiatives, to more controversial policies like sugary drink taxes or portion caps. She speaks on the heels of the repeal of New York City’s planned ban on large-sized sugary drinks.

Huehnergarth has authored more than two dozen published letters to the editor and op-eds in publications such as the New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Buffalo News, Syracuse Post Standard, and New York Journal News. She’s been interviewed on radio, television and film, and has been the topic of magazine and newspaper articles. She is a regular contributor to Huffington Post, Grist, Food Safety News and Civil Eats.

She discusses her experience with school nutrition advocacy in the book, Ending the Food Fight: Guide Your Child to a Healthy Weight in a Fast Food/Fake Food World, by Dr. David Ludwig. She lives in Chappaqua, N.Y., with her husband, Nils, and two daughters.

For more information on her visit to Mercyhurst, contact Eileen Zinchiak, Mercyhurst Institute for Public Health, 814-824-3671; or Brittany Prischak, Sustainability Office, 814-824-3829.



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