We sat down to chat with Rachel Pickering, the Director of Community Health Initiatives this week, at The Children’s Agenda, an organization in Rochester, New York, that works to improve the health, education and success of the Rochester community’s vulnerable children and youth through advocacy and services. Read on to learn more about the various projects that Rachel is working on and innovative solutions they are exploring in Rochester. Follow Rachel on Twitter and connect with her directly through her PreventObesity.net profile here.
Name: Rachel Pickering
Title: Director of Community Health Initiatives
Organization: The Children’s Agenda
What inspired you to start working on childhood obesity?
I returned to the Rochester area in 2002, starting a job with Cornell University Cooperative Extension in their Nutrition and 4-H Youth Development programs. I was impressed with their approach to strengthen youth and families and promote community health―connecting researched-based solutions with community defined need. My journey in this work led me to The Children’s Agenda in 2013, an organization working to improve the health, education and success of our community’s children and youth by advocating for what works best and what is needed the most for kids at the local, state and federal levels. Rochester, like most Rust Belt cities, isn’t short of challenges. We are the only city of comparable size in the nation where more than half of our children live in poverty. And, we have the highest rate of extreme poverty of any comparably sized city in the United States. This warrants our action and demands our focus. This is my inspiration.
How are you helping to reverse childhood obesity?
In 2007, The Greater Rochester Health Foundation pioneered a 10-year funding commitment by investing in a sustained strategy to reverse childhood overweight and obesity in our community. Since that time there have been many successes that have improved healthy eating and physical activity in Rochester. In order for our community’s current efforts to have a far-reaching and more lasting impact, we’ve initiated an effort, with support from The Greater Rochester Health Foundation, to build upon existing strategies and partnerships to expand collaboration across all sectors. We aim to broadly improve healthy weight outcomes far beyond the singular impact of any one program, initiative, leader, or policy.
What’s your biggest accomplishment so far in helping reduce childhood obesity?
I’ve had the good fortune to work with many talented and passionate people in Rochester. During my five-years with Healthi Kids, a grassroots community-based initiative led by the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency, we developed campaigns like “Lunch is Gross” and “Give Kids A Break and Rescue Recess” that raised awareness, catalyzed a transformative school wellness policy, and successfully engaged thousands of parents and residents to take action for kids. It was awesome.
Who is your role model in your work?
Our initiative’s Leadership Council, twenty-five leaders from multiple organizations and disciplines across Rochester. They are committed to doing something big and bold for kids. They are courageous and committed to community. Our leaders are taking a fundamentally different approach to problem-solving and decision-making, working collaboratively to maximize our collective impact and make real change for kids.
What game or sport did you play growing up?
My parents always sent me outside to play―to go explore and create. I am so thankful for their encouragement. Thirty years later, I still find my greatest joy outdoors, whether playing a round of golf or taking a hike in the woods.
Each week, our own Prarthana Gurung speaks with a Leader to get a quick look at why he or she loves working to create healthy environments for kids. Want to take part? Visit Prarthana’s profile and contact her.