Community Engagement

Title: Harvesting Healthier Food II: Advancing a Singular Program of Safe Food Handling Practices for Immigrant Farmers

Community PI: Hli Xyooj, Staff Attorney JD, MBA, Farmers' Legal Action Group, Inc. (FLAG)
University PI: Michele Schermann RN, MS, Agricultural Health and Safety Research Fellow, Bioproducts & Biosystems Engineering Department (CFANS and CSE)
Co-Investigator: Annalisa Hultberg, MS, Research Fellow, Bioproducts & Biosystems Engineering Department (CFANS and CSE)

Amount Awarded: $50,000, Year-two award

Abstract: This community-university collaboration requests $50,000 from the University of Minnesota Healthy Food, Healthy Lives (HFHL) Institute's Community-University Partnership Grant Program to build the capabilities of the collaboration to advance the now-established on-farm safe food handling practices program for increasingly prominent immigrant farmers in the Twin Cities region. These farmers, by the hundreds, have created one of the healthiest additions to our region's diet, growing and selling fresh fruits, vegetables, roots, herbs, and traditional crops at markets across the region. Over the last year, this community-university collaboration used education and information to introduce safe food handling practices that are helping to make the farmers' operations be safer, and creating opportunities for them to reach broader commercial markets. This next step, with the guidance of a farmer advisory panel (which contains both new and previously trained farmers), will draw on a year's worth of experience and relationship- building to move farmers closer to Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)—and prepare one of the region's first Hmong American farmers for GAP certification—through a sustainable training program that will introduce and institutionalize safe food handling and recordkeeping practices for Hmong American farmers in the Twin Cities metro region. This work, which is unduplicated anywhere in our region, will include both introductory and more advanced rounds of workshops and work with individuals implementing safe production and handling practices.

Title: Next Steps: a community-led solution to sustaining healthy behaviors in families addressing childhood obesity

Community PI: Aurolivia Reyes, Natividad Contreras and Maria Galvan, Community Leaders, Taking Steps Together
University Co-PIs: John D. Anderson, MD, Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota Pediatrics Residency Pediatrician (Medical School), Hennepin County Medical Center Medical Director and Primary Investigator of Taking Steps Together Program
Chrisa Arcan, PhD, MRS, MBA, RD, Research Associate, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health (School of Public Health)
Co-Investigators: Rachel Newby
Program Coordinator, Taking Steps Together Program, HCMC, Department of Pediatrics (Medical School) 
Maria Zavala, Community Organizer, The Family Partnership of Minnesota

Amount Awarded: $49,454

Abstract: Limited data exist on effective maintenance programs for low income, multi-ethnic children and their families following an intensive obesity prevention intervention. Taking Steps Together (TST), a family-centered childhood obesity management program, has demonstrated positive results in dietary and physical activity behaviors. Following the TST course completion, several graduates have established themselves as community leaders and initiated grassroots efforts to promote sustained healthy behaviors. Stemming from these initiatives, the community leaders approached the TST research team and requested additional classes focusing on maintenance and long-term sustainability of a healthy lifestyle. As a result, the proposed project, Next Steps, was developed as a community-initiated program with the primary aim of establishing a formal parent leadership group and a self-sustaining network of community-based health maintenance programs. Using a wait-list control randomized design we will follow two cohorts of families that have graduated from the TST program. The intervention will include participation for four months in a variety of activities (cooking group, gardening group, physical activity group). Measurement will occur at 0,2 and 4 months. The community leaders who will serve as Co-Principal Investigators will partner with University of Minnesota faculty to address maintenance in obesity management. Co-Investigators will include Dr. Chrisa Arcan, TST program staff and The Family Partnership. They will bring expertise in program evaluation and community organization and leadership. The program evaluation will include examining the feasibility and acceptability of the Next Steps programs for families following completion of TST. In addition, the effects of the maintenance program on knowledge/skills/resource utilization, key behaviors and body mass index will be assessed. This project will establish the leadership and infrastructure for ongoing community-led healthy activities and education. Evaluation of Next Steps will provide critical information for expansion regarding the feasibility, structure and effectiveness of the proposed health maintenance programs.

Title: Fresh Start Garden Project: A Community-Based Participatory Research Approach to an Intergenerational and Holistic Garden and Cooking Program in North Minneapolis

Community PI: Michelle Horovitz, JD, Executive Director, Appetite for Change
University PI: Tracy Bradfield, PhD, Research Associate, Center for Early Education and Development (College of Education and Human Development)

Amount Awarded: $49,994

Abstract: The Fresh Start Garden (FSG) program is a community-led garden and cooking program for preschool-ages children, their adult care-givers and older youth in North Minneapolis. The project is a collaboration among Appetite for Change, Le Crèche Early Learning Center, WE WIN Institute, The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum's Urban youth Garden Program, and the University of Minnesota's (U of M) Center for Early Education and Development (CEED). The community-university partnership is at the heart of this community based participatory research (CBPR) project that will evaluation the benefit to families, older youth and the community of coming together to grow, cook and eat culturally relevant food in a supportive, hands-on learning environment. The design, implementation and evaluation of this 16-week gardening and cooking project will be led by the community. Shared governance between the U of M and community partners will be demonstrated at every stage of the project from evaluation design to program implementation. This symbiotic relationship will benefit both the community and university by creating a model for a CBPR approach to evaluation the program that will not only answer questions that are important to the community, but also set the stage to provide other research opportunities across disciplines. Strong relationships will be cultivated between the university and community, building trust and mutual respect, to lay the foundation for deeper exploration of the multiple issues that are raised by an innovative program like Fresh Start Garden. 

Title: Healthy Choices Campaign: Implementing Healthy Menu Options for Traditional Mexican Food Consumed in Minneapolis and St. Paul Restaurants

Community PI: Julieta Parra, Business Training Leader, Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC)
University PI: Kendra Kauppi, PhD, Research Associate, Department of Food Science & Nutrition (CFANS)
Co-Investigators: Marla Reicks, PhD, RD, Professor Extension Nutritionist, Department of Food Science & Nutrition (CFANS)
Claudia Diez, Food Safety Training Coordinator, Department of Food Science & Nutrition (CFANS)

Amount Awarded: $50,000

Abstract: The frequency of Hispanics eating away from home is increasing. Popular traditional menu items served at most Hispanic restaurants include high-fat options and white rice-based items. Poor dietary choices contribute to risk of diabetes and obesity in the Hispanic community. As part of a community-focused intervention, this project will investigate the development of healthier menu options based on traditionally-prepared Hispanic foods served at select Mexican restaurants in the Minneapolis and St. Paul metropolitan area and assess consumer acceptance compared to non-modified versions. Collaborating restaurants will partner with University of Minnesota and Latino Economic Development Center members to evaluate, reformulate and sustain healthful menu options. Modified menu options will be tested for liking and acceptance compared to traditionally prepared, non-modified options at restaurants as well as highly attended Hispanic festivals. Healthy alternatives will be promoted by educating Spanish speaking food service workers with respect to preparation and service of healthful reformulated menu options and by encouraging acceptance of healthier menu items through a marketing campaign. Given the high prevalence of eating away from home by this community and related implications for health, the modification of restaurant menu options presents an ideal opportunity to impact health. This project has a high likelihood for success based on the strong interest, cooperation and expertise of our University, community and restaurant partners and is likely to have a sustained positive influence on the growing Hispanic population at high risk for obesity and diabetes. This proposal builds on previous commitments, accomplishments and trust developed by our team within the Hispanic food service community for more than five years.

Title: Stress Reduction Through Healthy Lifestyles in the Kwanzaa Northside Community

Community PI: Kevin L. Gilliam II, MD, Family Physician, NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center, Representing Kwanzaa Community Church
University PI: Jennifer A. Linde, PhD, Assistant Professor, Epidemiology & Community Health
(School of Public Health)

Amount Awarded: $50,000, Year-two award

Abstract: In partnership with the University of Minnesota and funded by the Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute, Kwanzaa Community Church launched a new program, "Body and Soul," which focused on food, nutrition and health. The project featured culturally sensitive and appropriate methods to create a sustainable program, using "real-world circumstances" that supported church members in their efforts to increase healthy behaviors, to attempt to decrease obesity and associated risk factors that are heightened in African-American communities. This project resulted in a program that was integrated with the church and its community resources, was developed and delivered by its members, was well-received by participants, and sustainable in the long-term. Kwanzaa and their University of Minnesota partner will leverage success from this initial phase of the project by shifting focus to stress, another critical issue of importance to African-American communities. The current proposal will expand the original project beyond the Kwanzaa congregation to include key stakeholders in the community, will focus on management of stress by healthy lifestyle changes, and will include children and adults in its activities. Activities will focus on mindfulness-based education, peer counseling to promote lifestyle changes, and inclusion of local community partners in stress management programs. Outcomes to be measured include changes in perceived stress, health-promoting behavior changes, program participation, and qualitative feedback on program offerings. Results have the potential to contribute to the long-term health and well-being of the Kwanzaa community and its neighboring partners.

Title: Harvesting Healthier Food: A Program of Safe Food Handling Practices for Immigrant Farmers

Hli Xyooj (Farmers' Legal Action Group, Inc.), Ly Vang (Association for the Advancement of Hmong Women in Minnesota), Michele Schermann (Department of Bioproducts & Biosystems Engineering) and Annalisa Hultberg (Department of Bioproducts & Biosystems Engineering)

Amount Awarded:  $49,991

Group photo of people.Abstract:This community-university collaboration requests $49,991 from The University of Minnesota Healthy Food, Healthy Lives (HFHL) Institute's Community Engagement Grant Program to create a sustainable, on-farm safe food handling practices program for increasingly prominent immigrant farmers in the Twin Cities region. These farmers, by the hundreds, have created one of the healthiest additions to our region's diet, growing and selling fresh fruits, vegetables, roots, herbs, and traditional crops at markets across the region. But they can use education and information about safe food handling practices to help their operations be safer, and to help them to market to broader commercial markets. This project, with the guidance of a farmer advisory panel, will draw on Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) to create a sustainable training program to introduce and institutionalize safe food handling and recordkeeping practices for Hmong American in the Twin Cities metro region, and conduct an initial round of workshops and work with individuals implementing safe production and handling practices.

Title: Good Heart Grocery and Eat Right Deli Community Assessment & Strategic Plan: Ihanktonwan Dakota community, SD

Faith Spotted Eagle (Brave Heart Society) and Tiffany Beckman (Department of Medicine, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences)

Amount Awarded: $50,000 

Abstract: Brave Heart Society seeks alternative ways to offer healthier and more humane food access and choices for under-served community members it serves in the Ihanktonwan (Yankton Sioux) community. Brave Heart Society with the assistance of partner Tiffany Beckman from the University of Minnesota's Department of Medicine and College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences propose to be Co-PIs to conduct community-based participatory research. The product will be a community assessment and strategic plan for a healthy Native-owned retail grocery store ("Good Heart Grocery") and deli ("Eat Right Deli") in Lake Andes, South Dakota within the traditional boundary of the Yankton Indian Reservation. Through the assessment, the community partner will be able to determine the potential retail trade area, consumer demand, health and nutrition spending characteristics. In addition, the strategic plan for the retail venture will include outreach with area agencies in order to propose models for integrating health and nutrition services. The team will also establish a community coalition toward these activities. This grocery store and deli will be beneficial to the people (819) in Lake Andes, Charles Mix County (9,350), and especially to the 6,500 tribal members on Yankton Indian Reservation. More than 54% of the population are American Indian.

Title: Restoring Our Traditional Foods: An Anishinaabeg Farm and Garden Curriculum

Winona LaDuke (White Earth Land Recovery Project, Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg), Sandy Olson (Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, University of Minnesota-Morris) 
Co-Investigators: Lauren Scott (White Earth Land Recovery Project), Mary Jo Forbord (Morris Healthy Eating), Margaret Kuchenreuther(UMM Biology), and Sheri Breen (UMM Political Science) 

Amount Awarded: $49,674 

Abstract: This project seeks to develop an integrated Anishinaabeg curriculum addressing the intersections of culture, history, economics, and health with Native foodways, including the application of gardening, farming and forest based harvesting systems to foster forest and agrobiodiversity and build healthy, sustainable communities. Curriculum modules will be piloted at the University of Minnesota Morris (UMM) during the 2012 summer session. This shared curriculum development project will explore and advance the positive health outcomes cited when Native people move away from processed foods and return to a more traditional diet of locally sourced, nutrient dense whole foods. This project serves as an opportunity to engage University of Minnesota Morris students with the White Earth Community in a new partnership to foster greater Native engagement in farming, gardening, and tribal food systems. UMM is the only college in the upper Midwest eligible for designation as a Native American Serving Non‐Tribal Institution; 220 Native students comprise 12% of the student body. Over half of UMM's Native students are Ojibwe, including 63 White Earth Band members and descendants.

Community-University Grant Co-Sponsored by the Senior Vice President for System Academic Administration, Robert J. Jones

Title: Body and Soul for Kwanzaa's Northside Community

Kevin L. Gilliam II (NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center) and Jennifer A. Linde (Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health)

Amount Awarded: $50,000 

Photo of man and young girl.Abstract:The prevalence of obesity among adults in the United States is high, at approximately one-third of the population, and showing no signs of meaningful decline in recent years, especially among ethnic minority subgroups such as African-American women. The purpose of this project is to use culturally sensitive and appropriate methods to create a sustainable intervention delivered under 'real-world circumstances' that supports the north Minneapolis Kwanzaa Church community in their efforts to increase healthy behaviors and decrease obesity and associated risk factors. This proposal will apply a social-ecological framework to a multi-component program to target healthy eating and physical activity behaviors in an African-American church community. Forty families will be recruited to participate in surveys at baseline and 6 months, to engage in a 6-month campaign of programs to increase fruit and vegetable intake and physical activity behaviors, and to deliver healthy messages to the church community using existing church resources and networks. The end result of this project will be a program that is integrated with the Church and its far-reaching community resources, developed and delivered by its members, and sustainable in the long-term within the Church community.

Community-University Grant Co-Sponsored by the Senior Vice President for System Academic Administration, Robert J. Jones

Title: Good Food, Good Fathering: tending a garden, tending relationships

Clarence Jones (Southside Community Health Services) and Shelley Sherman (UMN Extension, Hennepin County
Co-Investigator: Terry Straub (UMN Extension, Hennepin County)
Team Members: Mary Marczak (UMN Extension, Hennepin County) and Barbara Grossman (UMN Extension, Hennepin County)

Amount Awarded: $37,424

 Abstract: Fathers are often not in the loop when it comes to grocery shopping, meal planning and food preparation. Messages about healthy eating have tended to focus on the mother's role in setting an example rather than on the father's. Non-residential fathers face a particular challenge as they may feel squeezed to cater to their children's wants rather than to opt for potentially healthier choices. Research regarding the connections among food, behavior, and family relationships increasingly shows the importance to children of parental guidance in healthy food and activity choices. Bringing the father back to the table, and engaging him in his role of nurturer, is the focus of this project. In order to bring about a change in knowledge and behavior, we propose a series of activities for fathers and their children that focuses on the cycle of the growing season as a practical way to think about the family and that links the experiences of growing, preparing and shopping for healthy food to the development of healthy family relationships and traditions. This will be a process of self-discovery, involving hands-on learning opportunities such as exploring farmers markets, learning about local agriculture through community gardens, shopping economically, menu planning, and safe, healthy food preparation. Healthy foods and dining routines will be made accessible and fun, and as a result, fathers and children will develop new family relationships and traditions around nutritious eating, improving healthy parent-child dynamics. 

Title: Sacred Foods Equal Healthy Lives

Craig Hassel (Department of Food Science & Nutrition) and Lea Foushee, North American Water Office

Amount Awarded:  $42,010  
Timeframe: July 2010 – June 2011

Abstract:  The past 150 years has witnessed dramatic change in the diets and lifestyle of Anishinaabe people. The highly physical hunter/gatherer lifestyle of seasonal camps and subsistence foods has given way to a dependence upon market foods, commodity foods, fast foods and inexpensive, highly palatable convenience foods. The contemporary food system has left communities within the White Earth Anishinaabe Nation (Reservation) Gaa-waabaabiganikaag with an abundance of cheap, calorically dense convenience foods that contribute to the persistence of diet-related chronic disease. People must now travel 20 – 50 miles to find a full service grocery store with a reasonable selection of fruits and vegetables. This project reflects a community-based approach that draws upon the food gathering heritage and Anishinaabe culture as vital resources to a recovery and restoration of health to Anishinaabe people, families and communities. The healing available from a traditional subsistence diet comes not only from the physiochemical nourishment of the foods themselves, as commonly understood within biomedical perspectives, but also with a nurturance arising from a cultural, emotional, and spiritual relationship to those traditional foods. "Nurturance " in this broader sense includes foods as a sacred connection to all that is, food as a sacred relationship to place, food as memory, food as consciousness and food as cultural survivance. This project proposes a plan developed by community-based organizations to plant subsistence wild foods on during the coming year and plan four additional sites across the White Earth Anishinaabe Nation. Greater availability of sacred foods represents a path to healthy lives.

Title: Increasing Access to Healthful Foods in Low-Resource Neighborhoods Through Refining Youth Farm and Market Project's Food Distribution: A Youth Action Research Project

Nancy Leland (UMN Healthy Youth Development, Prevention Research Center) and Gunner Liden (Youth Farm and Market Project)

Amount Awarded:  $47,284
Timeframe:  July 2010 – June 2011

Abstract:  This project examines how Youth Farm and Market Project (YFMP) can better distribute the fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs it grows to the low-resource neighborhoods it serves. The aim is to increase access to more healthful foods to people and have an impact on preventing or decreasing obesity and other negative health effects of poor nutrition. The proposed project has three stages. Stage one involves documentation of the current food distribution system used by YFMP to distribute the food it grows. Stage two involves a formative research study using a Youth Action Research model. Youth employed by YFMP ages 14-18 will conduct the research and examine patterns of food consumption and purchasing among residents in the neighborhoods served by the program. Study participants will include approximately 150 parents of children participating in YFMP's summer program that reside in the Lyndale and Powderhorn neighborhoods of Minneapolis and the West Side neighborhood of St Paul. Youth conducting the research will receive training, develop a brief survey, and conduct face-to-face interviews with neighborhood resident parents. Stage three involves analyzing data from stage one and two and developing a set of action steps. These steps will include plans to grow fruits and vegetables desired by neighborhood residents and strategies to more effectively distribute food grown by the program to neighborhood residents.

Title: A Catalog of Hmong Medicinal Plants

Harry Boyte (UMN Center for Democracy and Citizenship) and Pakou Hang (Community Activist)

Amount Awarded:  $48,893
Timeframe:  July  2010 – June 2011

Hmong medicinal plants.Abstract:  The Hmong people, an ethnic group indigenous to southern China, did not have a written language until the 1950's. Until the middle of the 20th century, most Hmong families in Southeast Asia eked out a living as subsistence farmers. According to the 2000 United States Census Report, only 5% of the Hmong population had a college degree. Yet Hmong healers have been growing medicinal plants and treating common aliments for centuries. What are the traditional Hmong medicinal plants? How are they grown and for what medicinal purposes? What folklore and customs involve the medicinal plants? Is there scientific support for their effectiveness? This research study seeks to explore and archive these questions and answers by exploring Hmong folktales, previous research studies and interviewing Hmong healers and farmers. Using a combination of participant observation, ethnographic and other qualitative social research methods, this study will begin to lay the ground work for a catalog of traditional Hmong medicinal plants and a deeper understanding of indigenous Hmong knowledge. Part cultural preservation and education and part pharmacological research, this project seeks to improve the health of Minnesotans, especially youth in the Hmong American community, by understanding and sharing the knowledge of medicinal plants Hmong people have used for centuries.

Photo of youth in a garden.Title: Little Earth Food Justice and Youth Empowerment Project – Second Year Project

Jay Clark (University of MN Center for Neighborhood Organizing) and Lucy Arias (Little Earth of United Tribes) 
Co-Investigator: Margaret Kaplan, MN Center for Neighborhood Organizing

Amount Awarded:  $49,998
Timeframe: July 2010 – June 2011

Abstract:  The purpose of this project is to improve the health of young children in Little Earth and the surrounding community through a program that combines education and access to healthy food options, traditional foods and food production opportunities. The aim of this project is to develop community based strategies to address healthy food issues in a manner that is culturally appropriate, sustainable and meaningful to the community. In the second year of this project we will focus on expanding our community education efforts with children and families through the community gardening program and other education opportunities, while at the same time continuing our efforts to improve food options in the early childhood programs at the NELC. The methods utilized for this project will be based on a community organizing model of social change. We will use community learning opportunities and community generated strategies. The significance of this project will be building community capital and skills, creating a more just food environment in Little Earth, and developing a powerful model for replication in other communities.

Title: Little Earth Food Justice and Youth Empowerment Project

Jay Clark (University of MN Center for Neighborhood Organizing) and Lucy Arias (Little Earth of United Tribes) 
Co-Investigator: Margaret Kaplan, MN Center for Neighborhood Organizing

Amount Awarded: $49,821 
Timeframe: June 2009 - July 2010

Abstract: In this proposal the investigators plan to improve the health of young children in Little Earth and the surrounding community through a program that combines education and access to healthy food options, traditional foods and food production opportunities. 
Full Abstract (.pdf)

Photo of people in a garden.Title: Defining the Agricultural Landscape of the Western Lake Superior Region: Realities and Potentials for a Healthy Local Food System for Healthy People

Stacey Stark, (Geographic Information Sciences Lab, UMD) and David Abazs (Round River Farm, Finland, MN) 
Co-Investigators: David Syring (Department of Anthropology, UMD), Gayle Nikolai (Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Reservation), Mike Mageau (Environmental Studies, UMD)

Amount Awarded: $34,280 
Timeframe: May 2009 - June 2010

Abstract: In this proposal the investigators plan to describe the agricultural landscape of a fourteen county area in Northeast Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin, including its capacity to provide food for the regional population based on the Standard American Diet (SAD) as well as a "regional pattern" diet.
Full Abstract (.pdf)

Results: The goal of this research was to describe the agricultural landscape of a fifteen county area in Northeast Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin, including its capacity to provide food for these counties' population. There were four components to the research: geographic information system (GIS) analysis was used to describe the land-use of the region and its capacity for regional crops; in-depth ethnographic interviews with farmers documented their current practices and informed of challenges and potential for expanded production; the creation of a "regional pattern" diet and the capacity to produce it in comparison to the Standard American Diet (SAD), and finally an economic analysis to describe the impact a local food system can have on a sustainable economy for the Western Lake Superior Region.

Their geographic analysis demonstrated that our regional lands can produce a healthy, quality diet for the people that live in this region today and into the future as we move to more fully develop a regional food system. The Western Lake Superior Healthy Diet would require about 1/3 less land to grow than the standard American diet. Their dedicated and knowledgeable growers in this region are limited by several constraining conditions including: challenging soils and a short growing season and the minimal presence of infrastructure for processing and distributing foods. The vision for a regional diet and the base agricultural landscape are the building blocks our region has needed to take the important steps forward in the direction of food regionalism.

For more information about Stacey and David's research, visit their website: