Ben Kamber

The Regional Transportation Alliance of Southwestern Pennsylvania, a public-private partnership designed to facilitate a broad community discussion about the future of transportation in the region, was launched on Sept. 30  to improve connectivity across the 10-county region, and in doing so, to improve competitiveness, economic vitality and quality of life throughout southwestern Pennsylvania.

“Our region has a unique opportunity to approach our transportation future in a new and dynamic way,” said Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the organization that is providing staff support to the RTA. “Act 89, the state transportation funding package passed in 2013, stabilized our transportation infrastructure maintenance situation. Now it’s time to look toward the future to imagine what is needed to create a better functioning, interconnected multimodal transportation network that benefits the entire region.”

The RTA will be led by a 22-person steering committee that includes a public and private sector representative from each of the 10-counties and the City of Pittsburgh.

The first activity of the RTA will be an “Imagine Transportation” crowdsourcing initiative to identify transportation priorities through community feedback. Through the end of the year, more than 700 regional stakeholder groups – from small nonprofits to large employers, from environmental groups to social service agencies – will be asked to identify their most critical transportation problems and their ideas to address them. These priorities could be as small as “complete the two-mile bike path that’s supposed to run along the riverfront in my downtown” or as big as “build light rail to connect all 10 county-seat communities in the region.”

The RTA steering committee will then review these community responses to develop a picture for what the future of transportation in the region could look like. In its recently approved Long- Range Transportation Plan, the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission called for an “ongoing regional discussion” if the region wants to move beyond the status quo transportation system. Groups and organizations wishing to participate in the crowdsourcing exercise should follow the instructions at RegionalTransportationAlliance.org.

“Transportation is fundamental to economic development and vibrant communities,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, a member of the RTA steering committee. “As a region, it’s critical that we take a visionary approach toward determining our transportation needs. And as a truly regional effort, the RTA will help facilitate this process and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

“Traveling to Denver, Colorado last year as member of a public-private benchmarking delegation, I saw what was possible when a region had a shared sense of vision to implement transformational transportation projects,” said Brian Heery, RTA co-chair, and president and CEO of Mitsubishi Electric Power Products, Inc., located in Warrendale, Pa. “Public-private partnership was critical to metro Denver’s transportation successes. And these partnerships will be just as critical as we envision how our own transportation future is defined.”

“Improving connectivity and mobility throughout southwestern Pennsylvania is a crucial issue facing our region,” said Steve Craig, RTA co-chair, and Lawrence County Commissioner. “The launch of the RTA and its crowdsourcing initiative is just the first step in a journey to redefine how the region’s transportation network functions.”

For more information, visit RegionalTransportationAlliance.org.

RTA Steering Committee

Co-Chair: Steve Craig, Commissioner, Lawrence County

Co-Chair: Brian Heery, President & Chief Executive Officer, Mitsubishi Electric Power Products, Inc.

Tony Amadio, Commissioner (Chairman), Beaver County

Alfred Ambrosini, Commissioner, Fayette County

Philip Ameris, President & Business Manager, Laborers’ District Council of Western PA

David E. Barensfeld, President & Chief Executive Officer, The Ellwood Group, Inc.

David K. Battaglia, Commissioner (Chairman), Armstrong County

Rich Fitzgerald, County Executive, Allegheny County

Kim Geyer, Assistant to Commissioner McCarrier, Butler County

Dr. Tori Haring-Smith, President, Washington & Jefferson University

John Lewis, President & Chief Executive Officer, Armstrong County Memorial Hospital

Lawrence O. Maggi, Commissioner (Chairman), Washington County

Henry J. Maier, President & Chief Executive Officer, FedEx Ground

Jeffrey Marshall, Chief Clerk and County Administrator, Greene County

Greg McCloskey, Director of Public Works, Westmoreland County

Bill Peduto, Mayor, City of Pittsburgh

Rodney D. Ruddock, Commissioner (Chairman), Indiana County

Art Titus, Chief Operating Officer, Elliott Group

Rodney Wilson, Manager-Business Development, CONSOL Energy

NEXTpittsburgh

Powered by NEXTpittsburgh

Written by Jennifer Baron

June is this writer’s favorite month, with its lush greens, idyllic temps and promise of summer. As we make the most of long daylight hours, welcome the summer solstice and celebrate all of the dedicated dads out there, June is also the perfect time to rediscover the city’s communal spaces, recreational amenities and cultural gems. This month’s Top 10 is all about all things outdoors(y)—with festivals aplenty—so we hope to see you out there.

1. First Niagara Presents First Fridays at the Frick: June 5, 7 p.m.

Pack a picnic, grab friends and spread a blanket on the Great Lawn at the Frick Art & Historical Center. Toss in free live music under the stars and let that magical summer feeling take hold. For urban dwellers, securing a coveted spot for the highly popular series is a cherished summertime tradition. Kicking off the 2015 season is Canadian singer-songwriter and banjo player Old Man Luedecke. Hailing from Chester, Nova Scotia the two-time Juno Award winner released his latest album, I Never Sang Before I Met You, in 2014.

Mark your calendars now for the entire season: Carpe Diem Quartet on July 3rd, singer-songwriter Eleanor Friedberger on August 7th and Opek Plays Strayhorn on on September 4th.

Suggested donation: $5 per adult. Attendees are invited to arrive early and create a gourmet picnic with selections from The Café at the Frick.

Looking for more First Fridays fun? Mt. Lebanon kicks off their free series on June 5th and Brookline‘s Bash on the Blvd. continues on June 26th.

UNE (MICRO) HISTOIRE ÉCONOMIQUE DU MONDE, DANSÉE

A (micro) history of world economics, danced.

2. A (micro) history of world economics, danced at the New Hazlett Theater, 7 p.m. 

Dance, theater and economics will converge at this one-of-a-kind Pittsburgh premiere. Working in close collaboration with 15 Pittsburghers with disabilities—along with 30 of their family members, friends and caregivers and 15 singers from the Bach Choir of Pittsburgh, professional actors and an economic philosopher played by artist/activist John Malpede—world-renowned French director Pascal Rambert is creating the work as part of a residency with City of Asylum.

Conceived by Rambert at the peak of the European economic crisis, the production explores collective economic history via movement, theater and personal stories of diverse community participants—ultimately conveying how it has impacted people’s lives worldwide.

The free production coincides with the 25th anniversary celebration of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act. Created for select international cities, the insightful work explores timeless questions about how economic value is created during times of great income disparity. Part of City of Asylum’s artist-in-the-community residency, the show strives to give voice to disenfranchised individuals and communities, create opportunities for civic engagement and empower the creative potential of Pittsburgh and its residents.

The event is free but an RSVP is required.

3. Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival: June 5 – 14

Where can you experience art as psychic healing and catch a free concert by L.A. songstress Jenny Lewis? Recently nominated by USA Today as one of the country’s Best Art Festivals, the 56th annual Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival (TRAF) fills downtown with world-class multi-disciplinary arts programming—including a signature artist market with 300+ vendors, children’s activities and plenty of festival food.

Festival-goers can experience public art as psychic healing while viewing Rudy Shepherd’s Black Rock Negative Energy Absorber, visit Michelle Illuminato’s Lost & Found Factory to watch artists recreate and return missing items to their owners and learn about Native Americans who perished between 1492 and 1600 in Fernando Orellana’s Confluence.

This year’s multiple stages feature everything from guitar god Richard Thompson and folk-rockers The Felice Brothers, to bluesy singer-songwriter Benjamin Booker and Alynda Lee Segarra’s Nola ensemble, Hurray for the Riff Raff.

 

Stroll down Liberty Ave. to see how artists activate downtown storefronts, including Community Supported Art’s Small Mall Pop-up Store and Matt Forrest’s Trophy Cam projections of the mystical Pennsylvania wilderness.

What else is new? For the first time in two decades, TRAF opened its juried visual art exhibition to artists living outside Pittsburgh, and the result is a multimedia group show featuring 41 works by 31 artists. Also new is a focus on literary arts, with programs featuring Jasiri X, Tameka Cage Conley, Dreams of Hope and others.And to mark its 50th anniversary, Pittsburgh Society of Artists will present Intr(au)spective, featuring 34 pieces juried by Freya Spira of the Met.

During TRAF’s closing weekend, don’t miss exciting B-boy style breakdance battles between the Hidden Characters and Get Down Gang.

Since this just a taste, be sure to check our events section for more details. View a complete TRAF schedule with maps and directions.

Full Bloom Dance Party_750

Courtesy of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater.

4. Full Bloom at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater: June 6, 7 p.m.

Your passport to a spring fling with global flair is the Full Bloom Dance Party. Featuring cuisine, sounds and activities paying tribute to the artists of the Kelly Strayhorn’s World Stage, the benefit bash showcases the artistic vision and international companies the theater has introduced to Pittsburgh audiences.

Full Bloom is also a party with a purpose: all proceeds support the theater’s programming for families and youth in East Liberty.

Dress up or dress down, but come ready to dance. Ramping up the seventh annual edition will be the event’s first on-stage dance party. Get a colorful henna tattoo and then jump on stage as DJ Pandemic spins world beats. More of a wallflower? Have your fortune told in the Moroccan lounge, create a keepsake in the interactive photo booth and bid on cool packages from local businesses during the auction. In between grooves, savor refreshing Rock Bottom brews in the Bavarian Beer Garden and enjoy treats from Greek Gourmet, East End Food Co-op, Everyday’s a Sundae and Livermore.

Purchase tickets.

5. PRIDE Week: June 5 -14

Pride Week festivities across the state will be celebrated fresh on the heels of the one-year anniversary of marriage equality in Pennsylvania. From large festivals to after-hours clubs, here are just a few of the many Pride Week highlights:

June 5 & 6: Cafe Con Leche presents Orgullo! Pittsburgh Latin@ LGBTQ Pride at Bricolage Production Company. Pittsburgh’s first Latin Pride celebration will feature film screenings, workshops, music, food, community resources and more. Don’t miss the Pittsburgh premiere of the storytelling project and documentary The Gran Varones and a presentation by keynote speaker Bamby Salcedo.

June 12: Pgh Bro Club presents Ready. Set. Riot! at Cruze Bar. Celebrating the riotous, punk beginnings of contemporary queer culture, Sharon Needles’ Black Rainbow bash boasts “deranged performances by a coterie of marvelous and bizarre guests,” notably the not-to-miss winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 4. Open to ages 21 & up. 9 p.m. – 2 a.m. $12 advance ($15 at the door).

DJ Minx

June 12 – 14: Honchothon’s Pittsburgh Pride Weekend. Looking for more ways to spice up your Pride with an underground vibe? Honcho’s edgy three-day fest includes a men-only party at Club Pittsburgh and Hot Mass, a headlining event featuring Detroit’s DJ Minx and Chicago’s Steve Mizek at Hot Mass, the return of the Sunday boat cruise with disco DJs, and a Sunday night movie and pizza party at Spirit.

June 13 & 14: Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh presents Pittsburgh Pride in the Street, March for Equality and PrideFest. Commemorating the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City and reflecting the theme of “All You Need is Love,” Pride in the Street features Grammy-nominated songwriter and rapper Iggy Azalea on June 13th, and the March for Equality and PrideFest on June 14th. Free and family-friendly, the daylong PrideFest features 150-plus street performers, dance companies, drag queens and kings, musicians, food purveyors, and games and attractions.

The Delta Foundation’s choice to book Iggy Azalea has sparked controversy locally, leading to the creation of a Facebook page with 850-plus supporters who are criticizing and protesting the decision. Many in the LGBTQ community believe that prior statements made by the rapper are racist and homophobic. Learn more about these protest activities here and on the Garden of Peace Project Facebook page.

Mark your calendars now for Pittsburgh Black Pride taking place July 20 – 31.

Awards by Sandy Kaminski_750

CREATE awards by Sandy Kaminski.

6. CREATE 2015: Pittsburgh’s Art + Technology Festival: June 10 – 12, Wyndham Grand Hotel

We should dub June the Cultural District month, given the array of festivals, farmers markets and concerts taking place throughout the arts hub over the next 30 days. A first-of-its-kind art and tech mashup to add to your list is the much-buzzed-about CREATE 2015: Pittsburgh’s Art + Technology Festival, which boasts more than 50 events, workshops, exhibits, talks and interactive sessions.

Miki Agrawal_750

Miki Agrawal

Teaming up with the Three Rivers Arts Festival, CREATE will showcase regional innovation and connect Pittsburgh with global creative leaders. For the first time this year, national heavy-hitters will showcase their innovative products such as AT&T’s Virtual Reality Goggles and Hewlett-Packard’s Sprout, the world’s first immersive computer.

Featured presenters from Silicon Valley and beyond include Denise Jacob of Creativity Revolution, and Miki Agrawal, author of Do Cool Sh*t: Quit Your Day Job, Start Your Own Business, and Live Happily Ever After.

Representing Pittsburgh will be top creatives from local art, tech and community scenes. Festival-goers can experience a 22-foot immersive dome created by artist Ian Brill, attend Heather Knight’s robot comedy, take a maker workshop led by TechShop, watch game jams and much more.

View a full CREATE Festival schedule.

Courtesy of the Mattress Factory.

7. Mattress Factory Urban Garden Party, June 19, 7 p.m.

One year they built a half-pipe in the middle of the dance floor. Another year it was models who performed in a tub of milk. What’s in store for this year’s Urban Garden Party?

On one of the longest nights of the year, the anything-goes benefit bash salutes the 13th letter of the alphabet. Read: calling all magicians, mermaids and martians to the MF for music and mayhem. Dubbed M is for Mattress Factory, the shindig boasts a Michael Jackson tribute, magic shows by Baffling Bob, a Selfie Studios photo booth and performances by Meeting of Important People, Machete Kisumontao, DJs Orquidea and Mad Maxx and Tierra Darshell’s Divas of Drag.

Walking into the room-sized art installations at the Mattress Factory is akin to stepping into other realms, and the same can be said for its signature fundraiser—a place for where you and 1,400 other art lovers will commune for a night of stimulating arts entertainment and fare from a staggering lineup of 40-plus food vendors.

If you’re still standing on Sunday, June 21st, head back to the MF for the Community Garden Party, a free family-friendly celebration featuring hands-on activities and performances.

Purchase tickets.

Somi

Somi

8. Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival: June 19 – 21, Cultural District

Aaron-Abernathy_750x375-750x375

Aaron Abernathy & Nat Turner Band.

Come late June, jazz sounds from around world will be heard throughout the streets, clubs and cafes of the Cultural District. From Afro-Caribbean rhythms and soaring vocals, to soul, funk and symphonic sounds—the 5th annual JazzLive Festival will showcase the breadth, depth and diversity of the genre.

While JazzLive is a major festival—some 15,000 fans attended last year—it still manages to retain a laid-back, intimate vibe. Presenting established and emerging acts in a variety of settings, this year’s festival focuses on artists with both international reputations and musical origins.

Ginger-Baker_750x375-750x375

Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion.

Featured performers include Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion, Average White Band, Christian McBride Trio, Bebel Gilberto, Somi, Etienne Charles Calypso Review, Camila Meza, Sammy Figueroa’s Latin Jazz Explosion, Joey DeFrancesco, Aaron Abernathy & the Nat Turner Band, Craig Handy & Second Line Smith and more. Also not to miss is Song for My Father Reimagined featuring acclaimed drummer Roger Humphries and trumpeter Sean Jones interpreting the music of legendary jazz pianist and composer Horace Silver.

The free Jazz Crawl boasts 150 musicians, late-night club performances and spontaneous jam sessions. Festival-goers can also shop at the Showcase Noir African American Designer Market, pop-up Trust Vinyl record store and outdoor Night Market.

View a complete JazzLive schedule.

Make Music Pittsburgh_750

Courtesy of Make Music Pittsburgh.

9. Make Music Pittsburgh: June 21, 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.

In 1971 Cat Stevens sang jubilantly, “if you want to sing out, sing out,” which became the beloved theme song for Hal Ashby’s cult film Harold and Maude. The catchy tune could serve as the perfect call to action for a new initiative debuting in Pittsburgh on June 21st. Launching its first annual event throughout the city, Make Music Pittsburgh will showcase homegrown musical talents while inspiring one and all to play, sing and create together.

From hip hop in Lawrenceville and gospel in Highland Park, to bluegrass in Squirrel Hill and jazz in the Hill District—or kids playing the harmonica in Bloomfield—Make Music will create a live soundtracks for the Burgh’s sidewalks, parks and alleys. Organizer Jasmine Kurjakovic says that the day will also include performances by The Steel City Ukuleles, a mass harmonica ensemble, a documentary film project, collaborations with local music and neighborhood groups and more.

How does it work? Anyone can participate by either playing music outside, providing an outdoor space, volunteering or simply walking around and listening to concerts. Performers of all ages, levels and styles of music are welcome. Musicians can sign up to play and businesses and homes can sign up to host musicians outside of their locations. All the festival organizers ask is that the music is kept outdoors so everyone can enjoy it for free.

First held in France in 1982, Make Music will occur in some 750 cities around the globe on June 21, 2015. Ready to pick up a guitar or clarinet or host musicians? Sign up today and learn more here.

the lone bellow

The Lone Bellow

10. WYEP Summer Music Festival: June 27, 3 – 11 p.m.

Just 28 more days. Can we agree that summer is all about music under the stars? Good, then grab a blanket and your entire crew and head to Schenley Plaza for WYEP’s 18th annual Summer Music Festival.

MartinSexton

Martin Sexton

Headlining this year’s free festival is American singer-songwriter and producer Martin Sexton. Winner of the 1994 National Academy of Songwriters’ Artist of the Year Award, Sexton has toured with Art Garfunkel, Jackson Browne and John Hiatt. His latest album, Mixtape of the Open Road, was released in 2015. Acclaimed for his wide vocal range and improvisational techniques, Sexton’s expressive music blends elements of soul, gospel, country, rock, blues and R&B.

Schenley Plaza

Courtesy of WYEP.

Also featured will be The Lone Bellow, an Americana trio featuring guitars, mandolin and vocals, and Nashville indie-rock band Kopecky. Underscoring WYEP’s commitment to pairing local and emerging talent with internationally known artists, the festival will also feature a set by Pittsburgh-based pop band Brightside.

Kicking off the festival at 3 p.m. will be local teen bands from WYEP’s Reimagination CD project. Families can also pop into the plaza tent to participate in hands-on children’s activities. Music starts at 6 p.m.

Because all good lists must come to an end, we give you our 6 very honorable mentions for June:

RAW Pittsburgh presents Splendor at Mr. Smalls: June 4
City Theatre Company’s Momentum 15 Festival: June 5 & 6
Open House events at The Clemente Museum: June 12 & 13
Vincent, A Special CMOA Theatrical Presentation at Carnegie Lecture Hall: June 13 & 14
Awesome Pittsburgh Foundation‘s “Awesome in Braddock” event at The Brew Gentlemen: June 15
London/Pittsburgh: Mark Neville at Silver Eye Center for Photography: June 26

Looking for music?

Check out our Sound Picks: 10 can’t-miss Pittsburgh concerts in June feature.

Laura Fisher

This article first appeared in the May 8, 2015 edition of the Pittsburgh Business Times

“Could the next Brooklyn be Pittsburgh?” asks the headline of a recently published article in Brooklyn Based, a popular online magazine about all things Brooklyn. In the piece, the writer interviews seven former Brooklynites who flocked to Pittsburgh to seek out opportunity. She poses the obvious question: Why Pittsburgh?

This isn’t the first time that Pittsburgh has been compared to another hip, fast growing region in the country. It was only a few years ago that the Washington Post declared Pittsburgh “in” and Portland, Ore., “out.” And recently, Cleveland State University noted that Pittsburgh was best positioned to be “the next Boston.” Our region’s high quality of life, relatively low cost of living, and availability of jobs continues to attract national attention. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Brooklyn is taking notice.

bbFor the former Brooklynites interviewed, much of their initial reasoning for leaving New York City’s fastest growing borough had to do with cost of living. According to RealtyTrac, Brooklyn has the nation’s most unaffordable housing market when comparing median monthly household incomes to median housing prices. The same data firm also found Brooklyn is one of the least affordable areas for Millennials in the country. Compared to Pittsburgh, Brooklyn’s overall cost of living is almost twice as high.

Cost of living is important, but there are other reasons why Pittsburgh has become an attractive alternative. Our region was cited as having an abundance of economic opportunity, an educated population that is getting younger and is beginning to grow, and an authentic spirit of community and collaboration. Pittsburgh is a place where passionate, creative individuals can put down roots and feel a true sense of belonging. Opportunity is on the rise here.

This sense of real opportunity is already bringing in a population cohort that is increasingly important to our region’s future – Millennials. While it’s no secret that we have one of the nation’s oldest populations, our younger population is beginning to grow. Since 2010, Millennials have been our fastest growing age group. Between 2010 and 2013, the population of 25 to 34 year olds grew at a rate of 6.1 percent, more than twice the national rate of 2.8 percent. Conversely, the fastest growing age group nationally was 65 and over, which increased by 6.9 percent. Regionally that increase was just 2.3 percent.

Labor force participation by younger people in the region is also higher than the national average, with a 2.7 percent increase among 25 to 34 year olds compared with 0.4 percent nationally. Today, the median age in the City of Pittsburgh is 33.7, below the national average of 37.5.

These are positive trends, but as a community we have more work to do to meet the workforce demands of the future. Today our region’s working age population is home to many more people aged 45-65 than those aged 25-44 in line to replace them, a gap totaling 144,000. Despite recent positive trends (more people moving in than out and a fast-growing Latino population), our overall working age population is not growing fast enough to close this gap before the last of the Baby Boom generation leaves the workforce. There’s no silver bullet that will solve this problem. Rather, we need to be proactive in supporting a multi-pronged approach to attract, retain, educate and train more skilled workers.

The question, “Could the next Brooklyn be Pittsburgh?” is a bit misleading. Pittsburgh has its own unique community, culture and sense of place. It’s what makes us so special. It’s also what makes us attractive to those Brooklynites who are seeking a new place to call home. We must leverage our assets and work together to attract and welcome more talented individuals from Brooklyn and other regions across the country. Our region’s future depends on it.

NEXTpittsburgh

Powered by NEXTpittsburgh / Written by Lauri Grotstein 

Welcome to May — the kickoff to seven months of outdoors farmers’ markets in Pittsburgh. Starting May 11, there are open-air markets seven days a week. We can’t wait to take in the sights, smells and tastes of the just-picked herbs, veggies and fruits, the locally harvested and extracted honey, the locally made cheese and yogurt, baked goods and the full abundance of the growing season.

What a moment. Here’s a lineup of outdoor markets found within the city limits:

Market Square's Farmer's Market. Photo by Renee Rosensteel
Market Square’s Farmer’s Market. Photo by Renee Rosensteel

Market Square Farmers’ Market & Lunchtime Concert Series begins May 14 and runs every Thursday from 10am-2pm through Oct 29.

Now in its 11th season, the popular Market Square Farmers’ Market is a spread of more than 30 vendors, including more than 10 produce farmers—many organic—including Enon Valley Garlic, which sells more than 20 varieties of garlic, and Edible Earth Farm, which sells ginger, mushrooms, organic veggies and pastured chicken.

“We’re really pleased when the farmers’ market returns,” says Leigh White of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. “It’s one of the highlights of summer in Pittsburgh—workers, residents and visitors say how much they love the vitality and vibrancy of the market.”

There’s a creamery serving up organic raw milk and cheese, yogurt and ice cream. You can try small-batch hummus, olive oil, honey, dips, jams, and salsa. For the four-leggeds in your life, there’s homemade pet treats. For your sweetheart, freshly cut flowers.

Those who want lunch can visit vendors who sell ready-to-eat Greek food and homemade pierogies. Billy’s Smoke House has a speciality sandwich each week. “On a white board, they write this week’s sandwich–and next week’s,” says White. “I always try and remember when I see that next’s week’s choice is keilbasa—it’s incredible.”

You can choose from an ample selection of baked and sweet goods like berry pies, cookies, banana bread, scones, fudge and stone hearth breads. There’s homemade ice pops with fresh fruits and just-made juices.

Also, it’s the stop for Angora goat yarn and beeswax candles, if you’re in the market. If you’re inspired to grow your own veggies, live plants are for sale.

From 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. each week, there will be music. Performances include acoustic music, jazz, Blues Festival performers, the Navy Band, opera singers and a barbershop quartet. “The music is really that added piece that gets people to stay, hang out and enjoy,” says White.

Citiparks’ kicks off their season on May 11. Their markets—found in neighborhoods throughout the city—will sell farm fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, cheese and baked goods. Some locations will sell flowers and live plants. Call 412-422-6523 with questions.

Veggies available this time of year include: greens such as kale, Swiss chard, lettuce, spinach, arugula, rhubarb and collard greens. You can pick up garlic scapes, green onions, fiddleheads—maybe even stinging nettle. There’s stalks of asparagus and broccoli. You’ll find both sugar snap peas and snow peas. Roots like carrots, parsnips, radishes and beets. Herbs and hothouse tomatoes, peppers, cukes and eggplants.

East Liberty Farmers' Market. Photo by John Colombo.
East Liberty Farmers’ Market. Photo by John Colombo.

Here’s the lineup:

Mondays in East Liberty begins May 11, 3:30-7:30. Runs through Nov. 23 at Station St. and North Euclid Ave. parking lot. Zip 15206.

Tuesdays in South Side begins May 12, 3:30-7:30. Runs through Nov. 24 at 18th and Carson streets’ parking lot. Zip 15203.

Wednesdays in Carrick begins June 10, 3:30-7:30. Runs through Nov. 25 at Carrick Shopping Center, Brownsville Rd. and Parkfield St. Zip 15210.

Thursdays in Beechview starts June 11, 4-7pm. Runs through Oct. 22 at Broadway and Beechview avenues’ parking lot. Zip 15216.

Fridays in Downtown Pittsburgh kicks off May 15, 9am-1pm. Runs through Nov. 6 at the City-County Building portico on Grant St. Zip 15219.

Fridays in the North Side begins May 15, 3:30-7:30pm. Runs through Nov. 20 at East Park, East Ohio St. and Cedar Ave. Zip 15212.

Sundays in Squirrel Hill begins May 31, 9am-1pm. Runs through Nov. 1 at Beacon and Bartlett streets’ parking lot (behind the old Gullifty’s). Zip 15217.

Other farmer’s markets within the city limits:

Wednesdays – Garfield Community Farm’s Farm Stand begins June 3, 3:30-7:30 pm. Runs through September. Valley View Presbyterian Church parking lot, Aiken Ave. and Black St. Zip 15206. Call 412-979-7764

Fridays – Oakland Farmers’ Market begins June 5, 3-6 pm. Runs through October at the Schenley Plaza. Zip 15213. Call 412-682-7275.

Saturdays, Bloomfield Saturday Market begins May 30, 9am-1pm. Runs through Nov. 7 at 5050 Liberty Ave. Closed July 4. Zip 15224. New this year? Sturgess Orchard’s hard cider. Call 412-681-8800.

Saturdays, Lawrenceville Farmers’ Market kicks off June 6, 1-4pm. Runs through Oct. 31 at the Allegheny Bank parking lot, 5137 Butler Street. Zip 15201. Call 412-802-7220.

Saturdays, the Strip District’s Farmers@Firehouse begins May 9, 9am-1pm. Run through Nov. 21 in the parking lot of Bar Marco, 2216 Smallman Street. Zip 15222

And don’t forget the Pittsburgh Public Market, also located in the Strip and open year-round. Wednesdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursdays 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Fridays 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sundays 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 2401 Penn Ave. Zip 15222. Call 412-281-4505.

Enjoy the season!

NEXTpittsburgh

Powered by NEXTpittsburgh.

Written by Mandy Yokim

Anyone familiar with the recent history of Pittsburgh knows that we are a much healthier city than we were 20 years ago.

We have better restaurant variety and renewed focus on physical activity, more urban gardens and farmers’ markets, inspired community programming and increased commitment by local government to health-related issues.

No doubt, we have far to go before we add “Most Healthy City” to our list of accolades but great work is being done by many.

In our continuing series on people making Pittsburgh a better place (see 5 people making Pittsburgh a more livable place for all), we interviewed these 5 impressive change makers who are making inroads in health, from a food revolution in schools to addressing hunger citywide.

Improving how we eat

A sample to-do list for Leslie Bonci: Fly to Florida to consult with Major League baseball players about their nutrition. Film a healthy food segment for Dr. Oz. Talk with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Steelers about their diets and sports performance.

As director of sports nutrition at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine, the slim and energetic Bonci is a national presence (like her counterpart, the equally impressive Dr. Vonda Wright). And she has learned that there is not one-size-fits-all with eating and it’s ok to start with small changes.

“If we could be a little bit more mindful of what is on the plate and what it is we’re eating, that could go a long way to really having Pittsburghers make their mark on health,” she notes.

Her advice: take your favorite foods (that may not be so healthy) and complement them with healthier ones.

“There are foods we have grown up with, cherish and don’t want to give up,” she notes. “But what we can do is complement those foods with others—such as pierogies in a whipped butter with onions and a side salad of a red cabbage vinaigrette slaw, or a hot sausage sandwich with onions and peppers with a bowl of vegetable soup.”

She is a big believer in “coloring up the plate” with fresh veggies and fruits because it “brings the eye thrill and the gut fill without being stuffed.”

But it’s not just what’s on the plate. It’s “resizing the plate, sitting and savoring what we eat, growing some of what we eat, knowing who grows our food. All of this makes us food savvy and healthwise.”

Last summer she started Camp Delicious, a cooking camp to empower kids about all things food–with field trips to Grow Pittsburgh and tasting new foods that kids have picked themselves.

“We were really trying to get kids to understand where food comes from and then what to do with it once you have it,” Bonci says.

The kids were involved in every aspect from food harvesting to food preparation. “An exposed palate is an educated palate. They all tasted everything from broccoli soup to edamame hummus to carrot/ginger juice. When you are more involved and engaged in cooking, you are more likely to try.”

The lifelong Pittsburgher is encouraged by the direction Pittsburgh is going. It makes me smile to think of what is happening in the city. It’s about time.”

Allegheny County Health Director Dr. Karen Hacker / Photo by Brian Cohen
Allegheny County Health Director Dr. Karen Hacker. Photo by Brian Cohen

Making the whole county healthier

“There are three behaviors which contribute to the four major chronic diseases and contribute to over 60% of mortality,” says Dr. Karen Hacker who moved here from Boston more than a year ago to take over as director of the Allegheny County Health Department.

“Those are smoking, physical inactivity and poor nutrition. Having looked at our indicators across the county, we’ve got work to do in all those areas.”

Hacker feels that the Pittsburgh region is ready to move forward and has what it takes to be a healthier community. If we can’t do it, who can? she asks.

“What was interesting to me about this job in Pittsburgh was that there was one county health department that included the city. There was a board that was really interested in change. There were a number of foundations and universities. Basically, everybody really seemed to be interested in collaborating and working together to get things done.”

Enter the Live Well Allegheny Campaign, a county-wide initiative launched last January to improve the health and wellness of Allegheny County.

“In this area, there are so many wonderful community organizations doing all kinds of great work but there didn’t seem to be one group that was pulling everybody together,” says Hacker. “We all agree that these are agenda items so how do we work collaboratively to move the needle on these things?’”

Hacker cites the objective of Live Well Allegheny as an umbrella organization where a wide variety of health-related issues can receive attention–issues like mental health, environmental health and decreasing violence.

In researching health indicators throughout the city, Hacker noticed major health inequalities (both geographic and racial) as well as high poverty levels. “It’s got me thinking more and more about economic development, about housing, about transportation, about all of these social determinants of health and how I can work with those organizations, which aren’t the typical organizations that health departments work with, to push the agenda on things which will ultimately make a difference in our residents’ health.”

Hacker’s words of wisdom for a healthier Pittsburgh are a call to action: “There’s only so much that institutions and organizations and government can actually do. We need to do our best, but individuals have to take that responsibility as well, to make the small changes that ultimately make a difference.”

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Kelsey Weisgerber, food service director at The Environmental Charter School at Frick Park. Photo by Brian Cohen.

Lunch today? Penne pasta with tomatoes and mozzarella accompanied by a fresh spinach salad with chickpeas, along with a whole grain roll and a pear. All for $2.25.

If you’re a student at The Environmental Charter School at Frick Park, you’re luckier than most in getting a healthy and delicious lunch like this every school day.

As Food Service Director at The Environmental Charter School at Frick Park, Kelsey Weisgerber credits their partnership with the Community Kitchen of Pittsburgh (CKP) which cooks 80% of the meals from scratch.

But it’s more than that. “We could put beautiful food on their lunch tray, but unless our students understand its purpose and why it is there, we are not serving them to the fullest extent,” she adds.

Weisgerber, who co-founded the Food Revolution Cooking Club in 2012 and now serves as an ambassador for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution in Pittsburgh, says, “There is a huge opportunity in our city for more entrepreneurs to follow this type of model that provides from scratch, real and affordable meals to schools.”

In other cities, companies such as Revolution Foods have been instrumental in providing better food to students. “I hope that we can see CKP expand across our region, along with the formation of other well-intentioned food service management companies.”

Weisgerber’s words of wisdom for improving the city’s health on a personal level: get your kids actively involved with food. “By making food exciting, celebrated and adventurous for kids you can form positive relationships and connections with kids and that food.”

“If you have kids, volunteer at their school: do a tasting, assist a teacher, run an after-school club once a month, but make food present,” she advises. “If you don’t have school-aged kids find other ways to get involved around food and education, check out Slow Food Pittsburgh, Grow Pittsburgh or any number of outstanding local organizations that are championing better food for our city.”

Ken Regal, photo by Brian Cohen
Ken Regal, photo by Brian Cohen

Advocating for the underserved

Each day Ken Regal climbs the six flights of steps to his house, which is on one of the steepest sections of one of the steepest streets in the city. It’s one of many things he does to stay healthy.

As executive director at Just Harvest, Regal attempts to keep whole communities healthy by addressing the root causes of hunger and poverty in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

“We’re not a healthy city unless everyone’s got the basics and opportunity to succeed. When we leave people behind economically, we are not a healthy city no matter how healthy some of us are.”

Serving on the Board of the Pennsylvania Hunger Action Center and on the steering committee of the Southwestern PA Food Security Partnership, Regal has made the mission of Just Harvest his life’s work.

“There are fundamental moral rules about how we should behave as a community. One of those rules is that people should have a right to enough food to eat. It’s not an act of kindness for us to give people enough food to eat. People have a moral claim to enough food to eat.”

One way that Just Harvest helps people get access to food? Food stamps.

“We help about 1,000 households each year apply for Food Stamps (SNAP), and guide them through the rest of the often complex application process. Because Food Stamps are all electronic now, with the benefits on a debit-like card, we run ‘Fresh Access,’ an electronic transaction program at nine area farmers’ markets to enable people to use their food stamps to shop for high-quality, affordable food.”

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.

Leah Lizarondo gives a TEDx talk. Photo by Bill Stiner
Leah Lizarondo gives a TEDx talk. 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.”