Fall 2020 Grantees

Community-University Partnership Grant Program

Title: Learning-by-Doing to Improve Dietary Quality of Rural Latino Families: Phase II

Community PI: Rodolfo Gutierrez, Ph.D. Executive Director, Hispanic Advocacy and Community Engagement through Research (HACER)

University PI: Jennifer Linde, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health

Amount Awarded: $50,000

Length of Project: 1 year


Obesity rates in Latino populations are higher than in non-Latino white populations within the US and also within Minnesota (Hales CM, Minnesota Department of Health). Food deserts, areas in which there is limited access to affordable and healthy food, are also more common in areas with higher Latino populations (Valdez, Zulema). We at Hispanic Advocacy and Community Empowerment through Research (HACER) have realized this inequality among the Latino population within Minnesota specifically and have previously focused our efforts in the innovative 2019 HFHL-funded Planning Grant research project Learning-by-Doing. This previous HFHL-funded project was successful in educating and training 30 Latino participants in St. James, Minnesota on culturally specific healthy dietary habits and also gave us insights into the large portion size Latino families serve in each meal, the tendency for Latino shoppers not to read food labels, and the lack of structured recipes among Latinos to prepare their food. To further address the unhealthy eating habits and the high rates of obesity within the Latino population in Minnesota (Hales CM), we propose to expand our 2019 planning grant project to reach additional USDA designated food desert areas in rural Southwest Minnesota (USDA Economic Research Services, 2015). This new project, Learning-by-Doing to Improve Dietary Quality of Rural Latino Families: Phase 2, will help us to further characterize the limitations that Minnesota Latino families in food deserts face to sustain a healthy diet and gain a better grasp on the unique needs of each community. We will conduct in-depth interviews to the point of saturation, where the participants will be asked to describe their food shopping and eating habits. We will then conduct three workshops, the first focused on food journal education and the following two on interactive cooking community classes, which will be hosted by a professional Latino chef and a Latino community health worker. Participants will acquire practical, affordable, and healthy cooking and food shopping skills through these workshops. At the beginning of the first workshop, participants will be asked to keep paper grocery receipts which will be collected by HACER staff during the third workshop and three months afterward. These grocery receipts will serve as a way to measure the workshop’s impact and success related to food purchasing patterns. With this study, we hope to generate ideas with the participants on how to improve access to affordable and healthy foods which we intend to disseminate to community and academic audiences through educational pamphlets and a Webnovela that will be shared with the greater MN community. To give continuity to the planning research, Dr. Jennifer Linde will continue to serve as University Co-PI, with colleague Dr. Katherine Arlinghaus joining as a University co-investigator with relevant dietary and intervention expertise. They will advise the team on project development and implementation, assist with measurement development, and consult on data analysis.

Title: Advancing White Earth Food Sovereignty through Collective Analysis and Action Planning

Community PI: Lisa Brunner, Community Extension Service Director, White Earth Tribal and Community College

University PI: Katey Pelican, Ph.D. CoDirector, SPARC, College of Vet Med,

Amount Awarded: $100,000

Length of Project: 2 year


One of the most pressing challenges facing Native American communities is the restoration of a sustainable food system that provides ongoing access to nutritious, culturally relevant food, advances economic development, and reestablishes a framework for tribal food security and sovereignty. Many organizations are involved in supporting tribal food systems: government agencies (tribal, state, and national), non- and for-profit organizations, academic institutions, tribal leadership, and community groups. These stakeholder organizations all play a key role in supporting the tribe in addressing food insecurity, yet coordination among them is challenging. In addition, work in food security may not align with or even be aware of existing Tribal plans and goals like Tribal Food Sovereignty Strategic Plans. Because of this, even valuable efforts can lack alignment with tribal values, needs, and goals. Decision makers may know what crops are being produced but may not understand what crops optimize household nutrition on tribal lands; what land is best cultivated versus leaving lands under natural cover to promote traditional food sources like game, fish, and wild rice; which foods tribal members will choose to eat if produced; what methods and approaches to extend the growing season will provide the greatest caloric boost and nutritional value to the community. Academic institutions and their affiliated extension systems can play an important role in offsetting these challenges. Of all the stakeholders, local higher education institutions like Tribal Colleges are both multi-disciplinary and neutral as is the ‘extension’ of their role into the community. They are trusted purveyors of knowledge and support to all groups involved in food security in their community from tribal members to private sector partners and then to national and international agencies. As the primary higher education institution at White Earth, The White Earth Tribal and Community College (WETCC) can convene the multi-disciplinary team needed to gain an understanding of the whole food system and support stakeholders to collaboratively understand and align their efforts toward jointly agreed to Food System Action Plans driven by local needs and values. Over the past five months, a multidisciplinary Food Security and Justice Working Group at the University of Minnesota has been partnering with WETCC toward establishing a long-term collaboration that will align the strengths of both institutions toward building new systems-based models for strengthening food security in White Earth and in other vulnerable communities around the state. University-wide offices and programs like the Institute of the Environment, Strategic Partnership and Research Collaborative, MnDRIVE Environment and UMN Extension are working together to align UMN programs to better support community partners like the sovereign White Earth Tribal Nation in achieving their goals and building Minnesota Food system resilience. This grant is one among several that are planned to sustain this program long-term. The proposed project aims to leverage the unique role of the WETCC to support the community to perform a participatory feasibility study that will model what food production systems and methods are the most productive and sustainable for improving food production and availability for the community. A collaborative planning tool, the One Health Systems Mapping and Analysis Resources Toolkit (OH-SMART) will then be used to support the development of an action plan to implement priority production goals and align diverse stakeholders to the existing White Earth Food Sovereignty Strategic Plan. Once the action plan is produced, UMN and WETCC will establish a joint student internship program to support implementation of high priority items in the plan. In the short term, the goal is to alleviate the immediate COVID-exacerbated food security crisis, but ultimately, it will be imperative to establish sustainable food systems that are rooted in traditional tribal practices, are culturally appropriate, and that assure community resilience to external food production upheavals: food sovereignty

Planning Grant Program

Title: Food Education for Families: Cracking the Code for Bringing School-Based Learning Home

Project Team: Katherine Arlinghaus, PhD, RD, Assistant Professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health; Uli Koester, MA, Executive Director, Midwest Food Connection; River Ostrow, Midwest Food Connection; Karla Bisco, Oak Ridge Elementary School

Amount Awarded: $10,000

Length of Project: 6 months 


This planning grant will enable community-participatory research to help prevent obesity and chronic diseases among Twin Cities families by developing a strategy to expand an existing Midwest Food Connection (MFC) nutrition and agricultural education program to include family outreach. Collaboration between MFC staff, University of Minnesota researchers, and Oak Ridge Elementary staff and families in the planning stage will increase the likelihood of program effectiveness and sustainability. Careful development of this partnership in this stage will position the team to be competitive for larger funding mechanisms aimed at a rigorous evaluation of the program at Oak Ridge Elementary School. 

Title: Action research planning to design a next-generation community food system for the Northland region  

Project Team: Teresa Bertossi, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, UMD, Director, Land Lab; Dr. Aparna Katre, Associate Professor (UMD), principal faculty and program director for the Cultural Entrepreneurship degree program; Dr. Abigail-Clarke Sather, Assistant Professor (UMD), director of the Applied Sustainable Product Innovation and Resilient Engineering (ASPIRE) lab, and Engineers without Borders-UM Duluth Faculty Co-Advisor; Dr. Emily Onello, Population and Community Health, UMD Medical School, MD, Mayo Medical School, Mayo Clinic Family Medicine Residency (Minnesota); Emily Anderson, Essentia Health, MPH, MBA, Community Health Director at Essentia Health, Greater Duluth Area

Amount Awarded: $9,990

Length of Project: 6 months 


This project would help plan a new interdisciplinary research project that would combine participatory action research and design thinking with Community Food Security (CFS) (an anti-hunger and community development strategy used to address multiple needs and problems within a food system). This planning stage would include problem identification and user needs characterization via engaging directly with farmers and food-insecure communities using qualitative (e.g. interview, learning circles, observation) and quantitative (survey, economic analysis) social science participatory action methods. Key outcomes for this planning grant would include: 1. Identify and secure support and leadership from community partners to be included in key decisions throughout the project and create learning opportunities for UMD students as well as community members in the research design process; 2. Establish interdisciplinary partnerships that include faculty members and experts from sustainable entrepreneurship, resilient engineering, sustainable food systems, and community health and a common language across participating PIs and community practitioners; 3. Apply for human subjects institutional review board approval; 4. Refine the following research question: what might a next generation CFS look like, that is capable of simultaneously improving the livelihoods of Northland small-holder, beginning farmers and addressing community food insecurity ?; 5. Plan to utilize the feedback from farmers and community members for an initial action research project for summer 2021 that both addresses an immediate food need and at the same time allows for data acquisition and to explore new food production and distribution models that may help to address food insecurity and sustainable farmer livelihoods. Student-grown food at the Land Lab will be distributed to an identified community to help test best practices for distribution (mobile, cooperative, CSA food box) to explore community willingness to buy or have access to local, pesticide-free food, and results will be shared with farmer participants measuring willingness for farmers to produce and; 6. Prepare a grant proposal for the 2021 HFHL community-university partnership grant.