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Endowments commits $9.3 million to improve region’s climate, environment, health outcomes

PITTSBURGH, Pa., July 10, 2024 – The Heinz Endowments today announced $9.3 million in grants to 35 organizations whose work focuses on confronting climate change, reducing adverse environment-related health effects and improving equitable access to healthy food in the southwest Pennsylvania region. The grants advance nearly 30 years of environment and health advocacy by the Endowments and are informed by recent research supported by the foundation that identifies areas of critical need in the region’s climate, air and water quality, and food security sectors.

The grants include funding for a swath of community-based, statewide, and national climate, environment, and health-focused organizations. Three of the organizations – Women for a Healthy Environment, PennFuture, and Riverlife – were founded with support from the Endowments, with PennFuture and Riverlife celebrating significant anniversaries in the coming year.

“We are pleased to partner with and support a group of deeply effective community organizations in full alignment with the Endowments’ decades-long commitment to addressing the region’s most urgent environment and health challenges,” said Endowments President Chris DeCardy. “The toxic air, water and land pollution inherited from the past, as well as that from present-day industry, affect not only those near the sites who are often the least equipped to avoid the resulting adverse health effects, but also our region’s ability to prepare for the vibrant and inclusive economy of the future. We are extraordinarily grateful for our partner organizations who are making real, measurable impact to the benefit of all.”

The grant announcement includes $6.3 million directed to environment and health work, $2.2 million for climate-related projects and $830,000 for organizations that focus on food security.

A portion of the grants are informed by recent Endowments-supported research projects that produced actionable data, including a 2023 study by New York University Grossman School of Medicine that revealed an immediate and lasting reduction in emissions of fossil fuel-related air pollutants after the closure of the Shenango Coke Works facility near Pittsburgh. The study also found near-instant decreases in local heart-related emergency department visits and reductions in hospitalizations for cardiovascular diseases among residents living near the site after the closure.

Grants focused on environment and health work include $950,000 to Women for a Healthy Environment for initiatives that inform parents about the dangers of children’s exposure to harmful chemicals during their developmental years; community-based education about how to strive for healthier homes and public spaces; and the 1,000 Hours a Year program, which focuses on lead and radon remediation at places where children learn.

Women for a Healthy Environment, founded in 2007, grew out of the enthusiasm generated by the “Women’s Health and the Environment” conferences that were first held in 1996 and were led by Endowments Board Chair Emeritus Teresa Heinz. “From the early days of the Women’s Health and the Environment conferences to our current-day national footprint, we are honored for the opportunity to change – and save – lives through environmental education and advocacy,” said Executive Director Michelle Niccarati-Chapkis.

A $500,000 grant to the Capital Good Fund, a nonprofit certified by the U.S. Treasury Department as a Community Development Financial Institution, will support Pennsylvania BRIGHT, a pilot solar leasing program for low-to-moderate-income households in the southwest Pennsylvania region. The program, slated to begin later this summer, will assist in funding the installation of solar and photovoltaic battery storage systems for eligible households.

“We believe everyone should have access to the health, environmental and financial benefits of clean energy, and we are excited to bring this pilot program to southwestern Pennsylvania,” said Capital Good Fund’s founder and CEO Andrew Posner. “Every step we can take to protect and restore our environment while empowering people helps us all on our journey to a better, healthier future.”

Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future – known widely as PennFuture – will receive $400,000 to further its work to protect the environment and foster improvements in community health, with a focus on its ongoing efforts to transition Pennsylvania to a clean energy economy. Recently celebrating its 25th anniversary, PennFuture was created in 1998 through a partnership between the Endowments and The Pew Charitable Trust.

"We have made significant progress in advancing clean energy over the past 25 years and have achieved important legal and policy victories that reduce pollution and safeguard the environment for all Pennsylvanians," said PennFuture President and CEO Patrick McDonnell. "While there are still many challenges ahead, we are motivated to persist in our efforts for a cleaner and healthier environment."

Riverlife is the recipient of a $220,000 grant to support operating activities that will advance the “Completing the Loop” vision to complete, enhance and expand Pittsburgh’s 15-mile, 1,050-acre “loop” of interconnected riverfront parks, trails and public land. This year marks 25 years since the organization was created with initial vision and support from regional philanthropies including the Endowments and the Richard K. Mellon, McCune, Benedum, Grable and Pittsburgh foundations.

“Pittsburgh deserves both clean rivers and thoughtful design for its riverfronts, as well as the environmental, health and economic benefits that the combination of the two provides,” said Riverlife President and CEO Matthew Galluzzo. “Completing and expanding the Loop will help ensure that everyone in our region has access to all the beauty, fun, joy, and excitement that our rivers have to offer.”

Data has shown that a critical component of our region’s health is equitable access to fresh, high-quality and affordable food. Funded in part by the Endowments, research by the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council revealed that 14.2 percent of Allegheny County residents – which translates to nearly one in every seven individuals – are “food insecure,” meaning they have limited access to enough food for an adequately nutritious diet.

The national rate of food insecurity is 12.8 percent, or one in every eight individuals.

The Endowments $830,000 in new food-related grants will support organizations that train the next generation of farmers, improve access to locally grown food, and advocate for meaningful policy change that addresses food security issues.

A $240,000 grant to Farm to Table Buy Local will support its work to expand access to fresh, local food, including dependable produce deliveries; add more digital nutrition and food education programs for both children and adults; and increase partnerships with rural and urban schools, housing facilities, and child care centers.

“Reliable and equitable access to reasonably priced, high-quality nutritious food is a vital part of the health of a community,” said Erin Hart, founder and executive director of Farm to Table Buy Local. “Just as we all need clean water and air to thrive, dependable access to nutritious food is critical to the individual and collective health of our region.”

All of the 35 organizations slated to receive funding as part of the $9.3 million in grantmaking are:

412 Justice ($150,000) to support communities disproportionately impacted by environmental threats.

Allegheny Land Trust ($283,000) to support a climate-focused region by working to transform vacant, blighted property into productive urban green space.

The Alliance for Climate Protection ($175,000) to support a sustainable, clean-energy economic transition across the Ohio River Valley.

Capital & Main ($40,000) to fund environmental climate reporting in the region.

Capital Good Fund ($500,000) to initiate a pilot solar leasing program in southwestern Pennsylvania that focuses on low-to-moderate income households.

Carnegie Mellon University ($93,000) to analyze regional air pollution impacts.

Center for Coalfield Justice ($400,000) to protect the region from the effects of fossil fuel use and development.

Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future ($400,000) to advance sustainability, protect the environment and foster community health for all Pennsylvanians.

Community Foundation for the Alleghenies ($750,000) to advance sustainability in the region through protection of the environment, health and climate; ($250,000) to advance cancer
prevention in the region; ($125,000) to advance clean and healthy homes and schools; ($350,000) to prevent asthma and protect overall community health in the region.

Environmental Integrity Project ($250,000) to improve air quality in western Pennsylvania.

Farm to Table Buy Local ($240,000) to support fresh, healthy local food in the Pittsburgh region.

Food & Water Watch ($220,000) to strengthen protections against adverse health and environmental effects from shale development.

Grow Pittsburgh ($75,000) to advance access to fresh produce in food-insecure neighborhoods and to provide tools/resources for residents to grow their own fruits and vegetables.

Hazelwood Initiative ($400,000) for operating expenses to further development and preservation of Hazelwood’s physical features and to advance environmental justice.

Hilltop Urban Farm ($80,000) to implement its strategic plan and support programming.

Homewood Children’s Village ($45,000) to advance environmental and health education and mitigation work.

Inside Climate News ($50,000) to support environmental and climate reporting in the region.

Main ST ($182,000) to support clean energy transition through development of a Department of Energy-required Community Benefits Plan for expansion of Eos Energy Enterprises.

Mwanakuche Farm ($125,000) to support culturally appropriate food and employment in the Pittsburgh Somali Bantu community.

National Young Farmers Coalition ($185,000) to support land access for new farmers in Northern Appalachia and to advocate for meaningful state and federal-level policy change.

Operation Better Block ($45,000) to advance the organization’s green initiatives in the Homewood community.  

PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center ($430,000) to advocate for clean air in the region.

Pittsburgh Conservation Corps ($200,000) to provide opportunities for meaningful employment and strong futures in environmental fields for people facing significant socioeconomic disparities.

Pittsburgh United ($450,000) to expand capacity for its work, including securing resources to decarbonize public buildings.

Protect Elizabeth Township ($70,000) to support communities impacted by shale development.

Riverlife ($220,000) to advance “Completing the Loop,” a 15-mile, 1,050-acre interconnected group of riverfront parks, trails and public land.

Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors ($100,000) to support the Plastic Solutions Fund, which works to advance non-toxic plastics that are reused, repaired or recycled.

Sierra Club Foundation ($50,000) to protect the Pittsburgh region from the effects of fossil fuel development and use.

Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project ($725,000) to inform policy and decision-making regarding health impacts of regional oil and gas development.

Stichting Funder Forum ($250,000) to fund efforts to address global climate change.

Student-Led Sustainable Initiatives ($25,000) to support students and youth in addressing climate change.

University Of Massachusetts Foundation ($59,750) to support work to protect children’s environmental health.

University of Pittsburgh ($300,000) to support the Pittsburgh Water Collaborative’s efforts in water research, governance and action.

Wilkinsburg Community Ministry ($125,000) to address food insecurity in Wilkinsburg, Edgewood, Swissvale, Braddock, east Homewood, East Hills and the east end of Pittsburgh.

Women For a Healthy Environment ($350,000) to support the 1,000 Hours Project; ($500,000) to educate communities about environmental risks to human health with an emphasis on
children’s health; ($100,000) to support lead prevention work.


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For further information, contact:
Carmen Lee