Funded Projects

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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

Abstract: 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

Abstract: 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 

Abstract: 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 

Abstract: 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.  

University Faculty Research Grant Program

Title: Phylogenetic, epidemiological, and microbiological approaches to develop food safety interventions to control Listeria monocytogenes biofilms

PI(s): Byeonghwa Jeon, Ph.D. Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota

Co-Investigator(s): Craig Hedberg, Ph.D. Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota and Co-Director, for the MN Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence; Dave Boxrud, Enteric Division Supervisor, Minnesota Department of Health.

Amount Awarded: $150,000

Length of Project: 2 years

Abstract: Listeria monocytogenes is the foodborne pathogen showing the highest rates of case fatality and hospitalization in the U.S. Listeria may develop an invasive infection, causing serious clinical problems in the elderly, immunocompromised individuals, and pregnant females. Due to the increase in the aging population of developed countries, it is urgently required to prevent and control human exposure to Listeria. Because Listeria is ubiquitous in the environment, it can be easily introduced to the food supply chain and cause food contamination. Notably, the capability of Listeria to form biofilms can make Listeria contamination persistent and recurrent. In addition, the increased tolerance to disinfectants in biofilm cells makes it challenging to eradicate Listeria biofilms. In preliminary studies, Dr. Jeon discovered a novel anti-biofilm method that synergistically inhibits Listeria biofilms using antioxidants and nisin, the sole antimicrobial peptide approved by the FDA for food application. In the proposed research, our team will make multidisciplinary approaches to control of Listeria biofilms. In Specific Aim 1, we will analyze phylogenetic associations of biofilm development by measuring the level of biofilm formation of 300 clinical isolates of L. monocytogenes that have been collected by the Minnesota Department of Health over the past 20 years. In Specific Aim 2, we will investigate how biofilm formation affects human listeriosis by comparing the level of biofilm formation with the demographic and exposure information of the 300 clinical isolates. In Specific Aim 3, furthermore, we will develop synergistic foodgrade anti-biofilm combinations to eradicate Listeria biofilms, which can be used to decontaminate food processing equipment. The expected outcomes of the project will help us improve food safety by controlling Listeria biofilms.


Title: Manoomin Minds: Tapping Minnesota’s Manoomin/Wild Rice Expertise to Understand of How Growth Conditions Influence the Nutritional Composition of Manoomin/Wild Rice (Zizania palustris)

PI(s): Emily Onello MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine and Biobehavioral Health University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth Campus

Co-Investigator(s): Daniel Gallaher, Ph.D. Department of Food Science and Nutrition, College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS); Nathan Johnson, Ph.D., Department of Civil Engineering, Swenson College of Science and Engineering, UMD; Jacob Walker-Swaney, MPH, Research Scientist, MN Dept. of Health; Wayne Warry, Ph.D. UMN Medical School, UMD; John Pastor, Ph.D. Emeritus Professor, Biology Dept. UMN; Nancy Schuldt, Water Resource Coordinator, Fond du Lac Band; Darren Vogt, Resource Manager, Director, 1854 Treaty Authority

Amount Awarded: $147,965

Length of Project: 2 years

Abstract: Evidence suggests that wild rice, or manoomin, is a healthy food that is worth protecting from potential environmental degradation. Manoomin is a treasured resource for many tribal members in our region, for cultural, nutritional and spiritual reasons. Many Minnesotans recognize wild rice as an iconic ingredient in the region’s culinary culture but remain unaware of its health-promoting qualities or its fragile ecological status. In recent years, there has been significant scientific study and political pursuit of a deeper understanding of the ecological conditions under which native wild rice stands thrive. Published literature has described a complex relationship between wild rice and the environment in which it grows. Ecological investigations have found that water and sediment variables such as nitrogen, sulfate, sulfide, phosphorus, iron, and organic matter significantly influence the development and mass of viable wild rice seeds as well the consequent seedling emergence and survival. However, little is known about how alterations in these key environmental variables may affect the nutritional composition of wild rice. This proposal recognizes and partners with multiple wild rice experts across Minnesota to examine how various growth conditions, including sulfate and sulfide in water and sediment, affect the macronutrient and mineral content of wild rice. Manoomin samples will be studied from selected sites representing a range of environmental variations. Harvested wild rice seeds will be analyzed for elemental composition, nutritional content of protein, fiber, carbohydrate, and fat/fatty acids (proximate analysis). Site selection, study methods and dissemination of findings will occur in partnership with tribal biologists, band members and Minnesota Department of Health scientists. The project will culminate with the development of a free and publicly accessible data repository and will position project participants for an application to federal funding sources that builds on the findings from the proposed work. In addition to informing natural resource managers and policy makers, the goal of the repository and follow-up proposal will be to expand public access to information linking the ecology of native wild rice to the nutritional assets of this cherished and threatened Indigenous food.


Title: Hunger and Heart Health: Multi-level Predictors and Intervention Targets for Food Security and Cardiovascular Health in Diverse Children

PI(s): Jerica Berge, Ph.D. Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota

Co-Investigator(s): R. Lee Penn, Ph.D., Merck Professor of Chemistry, University of Minnesota; Leza Besemann, Office of Technology Commercialization, University of Minnesota; Jeff Ochs, CEO, Venn Foundation; Paul Hansen, Minnesota Social Benefit Corporation, President and CEO, Minnepura Technologies; Gregg Whited, Senior Scientist, DuPont, Division of Nutrition and Health.

Amount Awarded: $149,998

Length of Project: 2 years

Abstract: Food insecurity is associated with cardiometabolic disease in adults. However, there are major gaps in our knowledge regarding the factors that influence the emergence of cardiometabolic risks from food insecurity during childhood. The main objectives of this study are to: (1) Determine the impact of exposure to household food insecurity (i.e., timing, severity, duration) on children’s cardiometabolic health; (2) Evaluate the extent to which child behaviors, parent factors, and access to resources impact the relationship between food insecurity and cardiometabolic health; (3) Examine whether and how a societal-level stressor, COVID-19, impacts food insecurity and associations with child health; and (4) Use mixed-methodologies (surveys, interviews, focus groups) to identify intervention targets at the level of the family, neighborhood, school, and community to inform intervention development and future public health approaches to address food insecurity during critical incidents. We will recruit 300 parent/child dyads from a cohort of racially/ethnically diverse children from low-income households participating in a prospective, longitudinal study of obesity. Survey and ecological momentary assessment (EMA) data have already been collected, including measures of food insecurity, household environment, child health behaviors, and parent behaviors at two-time points (~18 months apart) at ages 5-10. New mixed-methods measures that will be collected in the proposed study at ages 9-14 include: measures of cardiometabolic health (e.g., BMI, waist circumference, metabolic and cardiovascular parameters, oxidative stress and inflammation), Geographical Information Services (GIS) data, and qualitative interviews and focus groups. This cohort is unique because the second data collection time point for 300 families occurred/will occur between March and August 2020, allowing for us to assess the impact of a societal-level stressor, COVID-19, on parent and child health. Results will be used to inform an intervention to be submitted to the National Institutes of Health to reduce cardiometabolic disease risk among children from food insecure households.

Graduate and Professional Research Grant Program

Title: The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on food insecurity, psychological distress, dietary intake, physical activity, sleep, and alcohol use among mothers

PI(s): Jessica Friedman, MPH, MSc, Ph.D. Candidate, Epidemiology and Junia Nogueira de Brito, MBA, MPH, Ph.D. Candidate Epidemiology and Community Health

Advisor(s): Susan Marshall Mason, Ph.D., Epidemiology and Community Health & Mark Pereira, Ph.D., Epidemiology and Community Health, SPH

Amount Awarded: $10,000.00

Length of Project: 1 year

Project Background: Stay at home orders and the closing of many sectors of the economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic are critical for reducing transmission but have precipitated dramatic increases in unemployment, child care challenges, and other economic hardships that have rapidly impacted the financial security of many households. These policies have had unique implications for families, particularly mothers, who are trying to balance work, household responsibilities, childcare, and provide adequate food for their families in a context of great economic uncertainty. A national poll recently showed that women are more likely than men to say their lives have been disrupted because of the COVID-19 pandemic; even if both parents work full-time, women have now become “the chief operating officers of their households.” Therefore, we expect that mothers, in particular, will disproportionately take responsibility for responding to the pandemic for themselves and their families because of women’s gender roles and expectations (e.g., caretaking, cooking, cleaning). This burden may make mothers particularly vulnerable to the numerous negative consequences of food insecurity, a widespread consequence of COVID-19 and related societal and economic disruptions (e.g., changes to the food supply chain and subsequent food shortages in grocery stores, increased use of public assistance). Food insecurity and related stressors (e.g., concern of running out of staple items) may place mothers at an increased risk for psychological distress (i.e., increased stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms) and other negative weight-related health outcomes (i.e., poor diet quality, reduced physical activity and sleep, and increased alcohol use). Of particular concern is the potential that restrictions on movement, accompanied by financial and other stressors, may heighten obesity risk for mothers, for example by reducing physical activity, increasing consumption of processed or ready-to-eat foods with higher caloric content, and increasing stress-related disordered overeating. These women are therefore at elevated risk of numerous long-term poor health outcomes over the life course, including eating disorders and obesity-related cardiometabolic diseases Identifying the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on weight-related problems in mothers will be essential for guiding clinical and public health strategies to prevent food insecurity, promote healthy eating and ensure adequate and sustainable diets. These ongoing health challenges will need to be addressed as we emerge from this crisis. In addition to concerns about food insecurity and obesity, there is an acknowledged and growing concern in the public health community regarding the anticipated surge in the psychological and physiological manifestations of extreme stress.13 In fact, both the CDC and Mental Health UK have issued explicit guidance for the public on identifying and managing stress and coping strategies specific to COVID-19. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, epidemiological surveillance identified gender disparities in the magnitude of psychological distress, with a prevalence of psychological distress in women of 1.7 times higher compared to men. There is growing concern that this disparity may widen over the course of the pandemic, resulting in poor dietary intake, decreased physical activity and sleep quality, and increased alcohol use in women. Studies on the mental health consequences of natural disasters, epidemics, and armed conflict support the hypothesis that these situations result in increased psychological distress, particularly among women. In the COVID-19 pandemic, the restrictions imposed by social distancing can interfere with healthy coping strategies (e.g., seeking social support) and manifest in maladaptive behaviors.


Title: Culinary Heritage and Cultural Wellness: Studying the Contribution of Ancient Whole Grains from Africa

PI(s): Melissa Jansma Ph.D. Student, Department of Food Science and Nutrition

Advisor(s): Craig Hassel, Ph.D. Department of Food Science and Nutrition

Amount Awarded: $10,000.00

Length of Project: 1 year

Abstract: This novel project integrates culinary heritage, health and wellness, food systems, education and knowledge production to support systemic changes within the South Minneapolis Neighborhood Communities and the Midtown Global Market. Partners include the Cultural Wellness Center (CWC), its Backyard Community Health Hub (BYCHH), Allina Health, Neighborhood Development Center and the U of M Department of Food Science and Nutrition (FScN). Ancient whole grains from Africa are underutilized foods that hold potential for health benefits by tapping into culinary heritage, building community and promoting cultural healing. A cohort of students from U of M Department of Food Science & Nutrition will study composition, history and use of African ancient grains millet, teff, sorghum, African rice, and fonio. Using a community-based, rotating guest chef approach implemented within the Midtown Global Market, the students will work with African American chefs under the direction of the Backyard Community Health hub to incorporate these ancient whole grains into menu items for food service and dishes for in-home preparation through multiple tasting and experiencing community events. The work includes developing an innovative culinary heritage assessment tool to explore and better understand the cultural dimensions of consumer acceptance, sensory qualities, and the significance of culinary heritage in contributing to perceived quality, acceptance and potential health benefits of ancient whole grain dishes. Data collected using the assessment tool will help in understanding the ways in which culinary heritage and culturally significant dishes influence community health and wellness. Additionally, the assessment data will form the basis for Community Health Hub instructional videos and in-person cooking demonstrations. Finally, this project address gaps in undergraduate food, nutrition and dietetics curricula, as current offerings often leave students unprepared to work and communicate effectively within an intercultural setting. The student cohort model described here holds potential to benefit food, nutrition and dietetics programs nationally.

2019 Grantees

University Faculty Planning Grant Program

Title: Community-Driven Planning for policy, systems and environmental strategies to reduce sugary drink consumption among youth and communities of color in Minneapolis

Project Team: Katie Loth, Ph.D., MPH, RD, LD Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health; Kristen Klingler, Minneapolis Health Department; Jess Roberts, Ph.D., Affiliate Faculty member in Minnesota Design Center within the College of Design. Lecturer in the School of Public Health.

Amount Awarded: $9,910

Length of Project: 6 months 

Abstract: Sugary drinks are major contributors to poor diet and rising obesity rates. Americans today consume more calories than recommended, with a significant amount coming from sugar-sweetened beverages. Tap water is a healthy, free and readily available alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages; however, water intake is low, particularly among youth and communities of color. Pilot data collected this summer through a partnership between the University of Minnesota - Department of Family Medicine (Dr. Loth), the Water Bar and Public Studio, and the Minneapolis Health Department (Ms. Klingler) and community partners as part of the ReThink Your Drink, Every Sip Counts! initiative, suggests that a lack of trust in the safety of tap water exists among low-income, minority, and immigrant populations and that this lack of trust leads to an increased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among individuals in these communities. Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and bottled water instead of tap water comes with significant health, environmental, and financial costs.1,5 Plans for Grant: To develop successful policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) changes we believe it is necessary to transition from a community-based participatory research approach to community-driven planning and action. Our long-term goal is to use Design Thinking, a rigorous yet accessible engagement model, to plan and facilitate community conversations and co-design sessions where youth and people of color will generate recommendations for local PSE changes to reduce sugary drink consumption and increase confidence in the safety of our local tap water. Building on these community-generated ideas for PSE changes, we will work with our ReThink Your Drink Leadership Team (described below) to build a network of informal community champions and increase their capacity to advocate for, collaborate on and implement these strategies, by connecting them with key decision-makers that have the power and privilege to implement PSE approaches. For our team to make a successful transition from using a community-based participatory research approach to a community-driven planning and action approach rooted in a Design Thinking framework, we need time for planning and training. 

Community-University Partnership Grant Program

Title: The Village Community Garden and Learning Center: Building Cross-Cultural Community Resilience through Increased Fresh-Food Access and Citizenship

Community PI: Kim Sin The Village Community Garden and Learning Center

University PI: Angie Mejia, Ph.D. Assistant Professor and Civic Engagement Scholar Department for Learning Innovation U of MN Rochester

Amount Awarded: $49,980

Length of Project: 2 year

Abstract: Community-based agriculture has been found to decrease food insecurity and ameliorate population health inequities 1. Furthermore, community gardens have been found to provide a connected set of benefits to intersectionally diverse gardeners: a sense of ownership, resources to help integration within new communities, and a space to nurture existing cultural identities. This sense of belonging in connection with access to community garden plots has been linked to psychological well-being and resilience. However, there is little knowledge on how psychosocial benefits connected to plot ownership affect resilience and which aspects of resilience in this process are salient. This community-based participatory research project seeks to examine and understand the role of community gardens in decreasing food insecurity and facilitating various forms of resilience in various food-insecure groups of people residing in Rochester. Since psychosocial benefits provided by community garden participation nurtures various forms of resilience along individual, group and community dimensions, our research inquiry seeks to understand how dimensions of resilience vary along intersectional lines. In addition to mapping the psychosocial benefits linked to community garden plot ownership, we find that examining which forms of resilience are possible in community-based agricultural projects addresses an important gap in the academic literature, which can help us propose policy-level practices that reduce various forms of health inequities connected to food and nutrition at the local level. Using a mixed-method approach, we will examine the experiences of two food insecure communities in Rochester: current and new growers with VCGLC plots, and University of Minnesota-Rochester (UMR) students who currently supplement their vegetable and fruit intake via their use of the student food pantry. Data collected will help us accomplish two things: 1. We will examine and use CBPR methods to disseminate information on the organizational practices by The Village to assist others in planning and implementing similar community-based agricultural projects in their communities. 2. Findings will give us preliminary data to apply for a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) award to design and implement a larger intervention that foregrounds community-based agricultural initiatives as a model to improve physical and mental health outcomes in food-insecure communities.

University Faculty Research Grant Program

Title: Extending the Senses: Rapid Chemical Sensing in Foods and Liquids

PI(s): Lawrence P. Wackett, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics, University of Minnesota

Co-Investigator(s): R. Lee Penn, Ph.D., Merck Professor of Chemistry, University of Minnesota; Leza Besemann, Office of Technology Commercialization, University of Minnesota; Jeff Ochs, CEO, Venn Foundation; Paul Hansen, Minnesota Social Benefit Corporation, President and CEO, Minnepura Technologies; Gregg Whited, Senior Scientist, DuPont, Division of Nutrition and Health.

Amount Awarded: $124,552.13

Length of Project: 2 years

Abstract: This proposal seeks to increase and sustain the University’s impact in the interdisciplinary arenas of food, agriculture, and health while training students and engaging the community in real-world applications leading to healthy foods and lives. We will develop sensors that work in complex matrices via student-conducted research at the University and then move that into the community with the support of University technology transfer, a Minnesota foundation, and industry. The initial target will be nitrogenous ring compounds known to cause kidney disease and death from kidney failure and that negatively impact bacterial disinfection processes in food and water. Our overall goal is to have on-the-spot, rapid, and inexpensive detection systems that give immediate feedback of contamination or adulteration of foods, and to determine unacceptable levels in fluids. To inform systemic change, we plan to engage the community through Foundation involvement and industrial participation. The team is ideally constituted to carry out all the steps from: (1) student-led research, (2) to University marketing, (3) to Foundation expositions, (4) and ultimately to industry mass production. Prof. Penn has led students in developing rapid tests for chemicals using smartphone apps. Prof. Wackett has published and patented on rapid biosensor methods for food and water. Dr. Leza Besemann currently works in the Office of Technology Commercialization at the University and was formerly a project manager for rapid diagnostic testing methods at Thermo Scientific. A St. Paul, Minnesota foundation and Social Benefit Corporation (SBC) will participate, along with a prominent scientist at DuPont. In total, we propose to develop new tools for food protection and security, integrating our collective expertise in food and analytics, to bring about systemic change in promoting health


Title: Community-led Approach to Increase Consumption of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables: The Case of the Somali Community in St. Cloud, Minnesota

PI(s): Serdar Mamedov, M.S., CHES | Extension Educator, Health and Nutrition Programs, Center for Family Development, U of MN Extension

Co-Investigator(s): Hikaru Peterson, Ph.D | University of MN Professor, CFANS Applied Economics; Kathryn Draeger, Ph.D. | University of MN Statewide Director for the Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships, Adjunct Assistant Professor (affiliated) CFANS Agronomy/Plant Genetics

Amount Awarded: $120,000.00

Length of Project: 2 years

Abstract: The Somali community is one of the largest refugee communities in Minnesota with an estimated population of 80,000, of which 10,000 reside in the Saint Cloud Metropolitan Statistical Area (The Economist, 2019). Being largely a low-income immigrant community, access to healthful foods such as fresh produce is limited due to financial, logistic, and cultural constraints. In addition to food insecurity, incidence of diet-related diseases is on the rise. Many of the Somali grocery stores are located in proximity to homes of their patrons and serve as spaces for people to gather. The goal of this project is to examine the effectiveness of empowering Somali store owners to address food and nutrition insecurity in culturally appropriate ways. 11 Somali grocers in the Saint Cloud metro area, many previously recruited for the study, will make improvements to the store infrastructure to increase offering of fresh produce. The store owners and employees will receive training on handling fresh produce, and Extension staff will connect them to local suppliers. The grocers will collaborate with the project team to develop culturally appropriate, educational material and display in-store promotions to raise nutritional awareness among their patrons. Somali residents will be recruited at social venues, like mosques and English classrooms, to complete pre- and post-intervention surveys on their food purchases, diet, and health status. Using a difference-in-difference model, we will estimate the impact of the interventions on purchases of fresh produce by Somali residents, sales of ethnic grocery stores and conduct a mediation analysis to identify the effectiveness of each of the individual interventions. Positive effects of the inventions would not only incentivize ethnic grocers to increase the offering of healthier food choices to help improve the diets of their patrons, but also encourage grocers to take on additional leadership roles within the community. 

Graduate and Professional Research Grant Program

Title: Characterization and Culture Optimization of Segmented Filamentous Bacteria for Administration as a Probiotic for Turkey Production

PI(s): Grant A. Hedblom, Ph.D. Candidate, Food Science and Nutrition

Advisor(s): David J. Baumler, Ph.D., Department of Food Science & Nutrition

Amount Awarded: $10,000.00

Length of Project: 1 year

Abstract: The proposed research seeks to characterize and optimize the growth of Candidatus Arthromitus (CA), a bacterium linked to improved immune health in several animals, notably turkeys. Turkey production in Minnesota has been severely damaged by a condition known as light turkey syndrome, where turkey flocks fail to meet their genetic weight potential and possess higher viral loads, costing the industry millions in annual losses and posing a risk to food safety and quality. Candidatus Arthromitus has been demonstrated to appear in much higher proportions in normal weight flocks when compared to counterparts with light turkey syndrome. Candidatus Arthromitus, a member of a group of bacteria known as segmented filamentous bacteria, has been shown to stimulate the innate and adaptive immune responses in mice and rats, and may be serving to improve turkey immunity. The proposed research project has three aims: (1) to characterize the nature of an experimental culture of CA isolated from turkey hosts (2) to optimize growth media for the cultivation of turkey-isolated segmented filamentous bacteria to increase production of these organisms, (3) to determine if administration of segmented filamentous bacteria cultures to monocultured turkey poults induces adaptive and innate immune responses. The research plan involves genome scale metabolic modeling to predict the metabolic nature of Candidatus Arthromitus and Bacillus marisflavi, the two members of an experimental co-culture obtained from commercial turkey. From these metabolic predictions and subsequent validation of these predictions, an optimized growth media formulation will be derived. Finally, the isolated and optimized probiotic culture of CA will be administered to germ-free turkey poults to determine the role that CA plays in turkey immune health. The proposed research has the potential to save turkey producers $30 million of lost revenue due to light turkey syndrome and serve as a template for probiotic discovery.


Title: Realizing Integration within Cultivated Ecosystems (RICE): Global Projections

PI(s): Tyler C. Seidel, Ph.D. Student, Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior; Kelsey Peterson, Ph.D. Student, Plant and Microbial Biology

Advisor(s): Jacques C. Finlay, Ph.D., Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior; Yaniv Brandvain, Ph.D., Plant and Microbial Biology

Amount Awarded: $10,000.00

Length of Project: 1 year

Abstract: Rice paddy ecosystems are highly integrative networks of human, animal, and plant interactions. Rice is decreasing in nutritional value and one cause is climate derived CO2(g) deposition changes. To increase food security and protection, and to prevent diet-related diseases associated with nutrient deficient rice consumption, systematic changes to rice paddy management should be made to facilitate ecosystem dynamics. These dynamics could cascade throughout rice paddy networks to increase rice productivity and quality, cross-ecosystem biodiversity, and generate ecosystem services to increase public safety and wellbeing. We hypothesize that rice productivity and nutrient quality changes are the results of shifts in nutrient routing within the plant due to climate derived CO2(g) deposition changes that stress plant growth and biomass allocation. Moreover, we hypothesize that farmers and breeders of rice could invest more in cultivating rice varieties that facilitate non-rice pest aquatic insect growth. These invertebrates have the potential to supplement rice productivity and quality, while also increasing cross-ecosystem biodiversity. By integrating laboratory, field, and modeling experiments, we will leverage stable isotope analysis in the laboratory and field to determine whole-plant resource allocation patterns across a latitudinal gradient of four major rice producing regions. We will also quantify aquatic insect contributions to rice productivity, quality, and cross ecosystem biodiversity through isotopic differences produced by food web and plant-animal interactions. After our research is complete, we will also be able to retroactively model the evolutionary and contemporary trends of rice nutrient quality changes, its impact on biodiversity, food security, food protection and potential disease transmission. Most importantly, our work will directly empower rice growers by providing opportunities to reduce and naturally supplement rice production costs, and sustainably enrich their diet by promoting rice paddy ecosystem functioning despite climate change effects.

Community-University Partnership Planning Grant Program

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

Community PI(s): Juan Pablo Higuera, MBA candidate, Minnesota State University, Mankato; Rodolfo Gutierrez, Executive Director, HACER; Francisco Ramirez, Community Health Educator, Fairview.

University PI(s): Lisa Harnack, DrPH, RD, Professor, Division of Epidemiology & Community Health Director, Nutrition Coordinating Center Co-Director, Obesity Prevention Center; Nancy Sherwood, Ph.D., Associate Professor Division of Epidemiology & Community Health School of Public Health, University of Minnesota; Jennifer A. Linde, Ph.D. Associate Professor Division of Epidemiology & Community Health School of Public Health, University of Minnesota.

Amount Awarded: $9,387.60

Length of Project: 7 months

Abstract: The Hispanic Advocacy and Community Empowerment through Research (HACER) proposes an innovative qualitative research project to reduce obesity and diet-related diseases in rural Latino communities. The project will seek to improve dietary habits among Latino individuals in rural Minnesota by understanding the grocery shopping process of Latino families. The findings from in-depth interviews (10) and behavioral observation research will be the inputs to design two Learning-by-Doing workshops. The in-depth interview sample will be defined in collaboration with the St. James’ Latino Community Organization: Convivencia Hispana. Workshops will be led by a Certified Community Health Worker and a Chef, who will teach Latino families how to cook healthier under their grocery shopping budget. With the Learning-by-Doing approach, participants will have the opportunity to actively participate in the workshops by cooking, asking questions and creating healthy recipes. The first workshop will focus on fruit and vegetables while the second workshop will focus on protein, grains, and dairy. Each workshop will have a pre-evaluation and post-evaluation assignment, which will tell us what was learned during the workshop. The results of the evaluations will be presented to HFHL in the final report, and a NIH or a R01 proposal will be written to fund full development and rigorous evaluation of the prototyped program most strongly supported by feedbacks from workshops. 

2018 Grantees

Community-University Partnership Grant Program

Title: Finding your Y: Preventing childhood obesity through building family resilience within YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities Neighborhood Centers

Community PI: Kate Whitby, Neighborhood Centers Senior Program Director, YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities

University PI: Jennifer Linde, Ph.D. Associate Professor, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota

Amount Awarded: $49,982

Length of Project: 1 year

Abstract: The proposed project will address the growing concern of childhood obesity by applying a model of family resilience to health and wellness programming. As childhood obesity rates continue to rise, it has become increasingly crucial to take bold and creative preventive action. While conventional approaches to obesity prevention operate within a problem-focused paradigm, an approach emphasizing mindfulness and resilience creates opportunity to understand childhood obesity through a lens of positive emotional wellbeing.

The proposed program will target socioeconomically disadvantaged families residing in affordable housing complexes (YMCA Neighborhood Centers) throughout the Greater Twin Cities Area. Recognizing that Minnesota is home to some of the greatest disparities in the nation relating to poverty and increased health risk, YMCA Neighborhood Centers serve families where they live and help connect members to the resources they need to facilitate a path out of poverty. While these families may have unique barriers to healthy eating due to limited financial resources and environmental constraints, mindful awareness and mindful eating practices are accessible across a wide range of income levels, ages, and cultures.

Together, the University and the YMCA will build and implement an innovative and strengths-based family resilience program, targeting mindfulness, mindful eating, nutritional knowledge, and behavioral modeling as key components of healthy living. Cultivating a mindfulness practice will increase mindful eating, a unique approach to obesity prevention that emphasizes how to eat instead of what to eat. Mindful eating focuses on the holistic individual, promotes the reduction of caloric intake in a way that may reduce barriers relating to weight status, and provides the flexibility needed to achieve and maintain healthy weight. Additionally, research suggests that, as children develop, hunger cues from the body are abandoned. Thus, a mindful eating approach may “refocus parents [and caregivers] on biological cues to eating, which they may role model for their child.” 

The YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities is uniquely positioned to do this work in collaboration with the University, given its extensive history of community-wide obesity prevention efforts and commitment to providing support for families in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas. This exciting new research partnership opportunity opens the door for the University to create and sustain a strong relationship with a well-respected organization capable of producing positive, tangible, systemic change.

The YMCA has a broad reach across the Greater Twin Cities and beyond, with more than fifteen established and thriving youth development initiatives, such as the Beacons program, youth intervention services, Teen Thrive, pre-school daycare, and Healthy Kids afterschool programs. There is ample opportunity and capacity for reaching families through these initiatives, yet an unmet need remains to engage families in an ongoing and meaningful way. Past family engagement events, such as food shelves and cooking demonstrations, have shown that YMCA-engaged families are willing and want to learn about nutrition and healthy eating. Thus, there is great potential for the proposed program’s framework to be translated to a variety of settings and contexts across the Y association, which will enhance our potential to attract donations from local foundations to support translation activities and open doors to future dissemination and health equity grant opportunities from the Minnesota Department of Health, University of Minnesota, or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention community grant programs.

The YMCA’s central Healthy Living team, which oversees Healthy Kids initiatives and acts as a central communication office, will take the lead on disseminating findings to the greater YMCA community and beyond. It is within this team’s capacity to facilitate the sharing of the program’s framework and outcomes produced via video, photos, social media, formal presentations, and meetings, and evaluate programs to see where the proposed program structure might fit as an enhancement to the ongoing Healthy Kids initiatives.

This program attempts to break barriers to healthy living and eating for families across cultures and income levels by focusing on core resilience constructs, such as cultivating a positive outlook and living mindfully. If this project is successful, we will have created a platform for developing programming to reach all members of the Y community to enhance health. Together, our collaborative team envisions a future where all families have an opportunity to find their Y and live their best, healthiest, happiest lives.

University Faculty Research Grant Program

Title: Antibiotics, food safety and socio-cultural practices: Assessing antibiotic use and resistance in food animals in pastoralist communities in Kenya

PI(s): Kimberly VanderWaal (Ph.D.), Assistant Professor, Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM)

Co-Investigator(s): Michael Oakes (Ph.D.), Professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health; James Johnson (M.D.), Professor, Division of Infectious Disease and International Medicine, Medical School; Dominic Travis (DVM, MSc), Associate Professor, Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, Adjunct Associate Professor, Environmental Health, School of Public Health; Noelle Noyes (PhD, DVM), Assistant Professor, Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM); George Omondi (DVM), PhD student, Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM).

Amount Awarded: $100,000.00

Length of Project: 2 years

Abstract: Agricultural use of antibiotics in food animals has contributed to the global emergence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which is among the most urgent issues facing human health and food safety in this century. Lack of regulation of antibiotics in Africa has led to widespread mis-use of antibiotics in food animals. Such practices select for AMR and compromise the efficacy of antibiotic treatment of animal and human pathogens, creating food safety and security concerns. In pastoral regions of Kenya, humans live in close contact with their livestock. Rarely is milk boiled prior to human consumption, and thus humans may be exposed to resistant bacteria or residues of antibiotic drugs through this staple food. The frequency and contexts in which antibiotics are used to treat food animals is not well understood in East Africa, and rarely is the occurrence of AMR in food animals linked to epidemiological factors that could influence antibiotic usage (e.g., presence of clinical disease) or exposure (e.g., communal water sources, proximity to villages). Therefore, our goal is to evaluate decision-making processes related to antibiotic usage in livestock and investigate the epidemiology of AMR in food animals in pastoralist ecosystems. Specifically, we will 1) Determine the prevalence of AMR and antibiotic residues in livestock and milk through phenotypic and metagenomic approaches; 2) Investigate drivers of resistance in food animals, with a focus on potential zoonotic pathogens transmitted through milk (bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis); and 3) Evaluate factors that contribute to human decision-making in regards to antibiotic use in food animals by using a discrete choice experiment questionnaire. Outcomes of this project will enhance understanding of the risks associated with AMR in food animals and how pastoralists make decisions about antibiotic use, which will aide in developing strategies to alter behaviors associated with overuse and misuse of antibiotics.


Title: Nutritional Value and Health Benefits of Pennycress Meal and Extracted Protein

PI(s): Baraem Ismail, PhD, Associate Professor, Food Chemistry, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota.

Co-Investigator(s): Daniel D. Gallaher, PhD, Professor, Nutrition, Department of Food Science and Nutrition; David Marks, PhD, Professor, Genomics/germplasm, Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, College of Biological Sciences.

Amount Awarded: $100,000.00

Length of Project: 2 years

Abstract: As our society becomes more health conscious and at the same time concerned for the environment, the demand for plant protein sources is on the rise. This has created a need not only to develop novel plant proteins, but also to seek environmentally sustainable sources. Pennycress, a crop high in oil and protein, shows great potential to be developed for food use, and provides sustainable environmental benefits. However, farmers will be reluctant to plant it without a strong market, and this market pull cannot be established unless the crop is characterized with unique benefits. Advances guided by sequencing the pennycress genome and assembling its transcriptome have aided in the development of new pennycress lines that exhibit different levels of protein, oil, and glucosinolates. Currently, concerted efforts are focused on characterizing the protein component and determining functionality for food applications. However, in order to secure a competitive place in the market, nutritional value and health benefits of this crop must be evaluated. Accordingly, we propose to evaluate the protein digestibility of pennycress meal and protein concentrate, and to evaluate their potential health benefits. Pennycress samples rich in protein and with varying levels of glucosinolates will be processed to produce a defatted meal and a protein concentrate. Protein digestibility, potential decrease in adiposity, and reduction in colon cancer risk will be evaluated using animal models. This project is unique in terms of evaluating the nutritional as well as the potential health benefits of a novel crop. Findings of this work will provide valuable phenotyping data to breeders that will aid in the development of successful pennycress lines. Furthermore, the results of this proposed project will be of broad interest and application to a variety of disciplines and potentially generate future synergism amongst nutritional scientists, food scientists, agronomists, farmers, and environmental scientists.

Graduate and Professional Research Grant Program

Title: Determining the impact of a gradual sugar reduction on acceptability of sugar- sweetened beverages

PI(s): Loma Inamdar, Master’s Degree Candidate, Food Science

Advisor(s): Zata Vickers, Food Science & Nutrition

Amount Awarded: $10,000.00

Length of Project: 1 year

Abstract: Overconsumption of sugar has been of great concern because of its association to health risks like obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Surveys conducted by the National Institute of Health show sugar-sweetened beverages as the primary contributors to increased sugar consumption. In this proposal we address two aims: Aim 1 will determine if a gradual reduction of sugar in sweetened iced tea will maintain liking ratings. Aim 2 will determine whether the gradual reduction of sugar will decrease participants’ ideal level of sugar in iced tea. Methods: This study will have 3 stages: an initial taste test, 12-week longitudinal stage, and a final taste test. At the initial and final tastes participants will be served teas differing in sugar content. During the 12-week longitudinal stage participants will be placed into either the control or gradual group. The control group will receive a sugar-sweetened beverage that does not change in the amount of added sugar; the gradual group will receive iced tea reduced weekly in 10% sucrose increments. Participants will drink their assigned tea at least three times per week. Data analysis: Analyses of the gradual and control group will be performed to determine whether liking ratings were maintained throughout the 12-week period. We will compare participants’ ideal sweetness levels between from the initial and the final taste tests. Results: We will determine if a gradual reduction of sugar maintains liking, and we will determine if a gradual reduction of sugar will decrease the participants’ ideal level of sugar in tea.


Title: Evaluating Alternative Plant-Based Dietary Patterns as Predictors of Future Risk for Diabetes in US Young Adults: Redesigning Dietary Guideline for Healthy Populations

PI(s): Yuni Choi, Ph.D. Student, Nutrition Graduate Studies, Department of Food Science and Nutrition.

Advisor(s): David Jacobs Jr PhD, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health; Nicole Larson, PhD, MPH, RDN, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, Department of Food Science and Nutrition.

Amount Awarded: $10,000.00

Length of Project: 1 year

Abstract: Diet is a modifiable factor for type 2 diabetes prevention, but dietary guidelines for prevention suffer from inconsistent findings for specific food groups. Dietary guidelines recommend an increase in fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, various protein-rich foods and low added sugars, trans fats, saturated fat, and sodium intake. However, the current evidence is ambiguous for increasing fruits, vegetables, and protein foods intake as a mode of diabetes risk reduction. Despite growing evidence that plant-based diets improve cardiovascular health, parallel data for prevention of diabetes is limited. Our goal is to add new knowledge about long-term diabetes prevention.

Community-University Partnership Planning Grant Program

Title: Electronic Delivery of Childhood Obesity Prevention Programs to Latino Fathers 

Community PI(s): Milena Nunez Garcia, SNAP-Ed Educator, Olmsted County Extension Office; Roxana Linares, Centro Tyrone Guzman

University PI(s): Francine Overcash, PhD, MPH, Post-Doctoral Associate, Food Science and Nutrition; Marla Reicks, PhD, MPH, Professor, Department of Food Science and Nutrition

Amount Awarded: $9,672.00

Length of Project: 6 months

Abstract: The purpose of this proposed planning grant is to create an effective community-university partnership with key agencies in the Twin Cities metro area that work to improve health and well-being of Latino communities. The goal of the partnerships is to develop and execute a strategic plan to collect preliminary data that will be used for a larger grant submission. This proposal addresses the Healthy Food, Healthy Lives grant category of prevention of obesity and diet-related disease. 


Title: Strengthening Research Collaborations to Investigate the Effect of Aqueous Sulfate Level on Nutritional Content of Manoomin or Wild Rice (Zizania palustris) 

Community PI(s): Nancy Schuldt (Co-Investigator), Water Projects Coordinator, Fond du Lac Environmental Program, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

University PI(s): Emily Onello MD, Assistant Professor (Principal Investigator), Department of Family Medicine and Biobehavioral Health, University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth campus

Co-Investigator(s): Professor John Pastor PhD (Co-Investigator), Biology Department, Swenson College of Science and Engineering

Amount Awarded: $10,000.00

Length of Project: 6 months

Abstract: Evidence suggests that wild rice is an impressively cardio-beneficial food source that is worth protecting from potential environmental degradation. As our nation grapples with lifestyle-related diseases of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity, experimental models describe wild rice’s anti-atherogenic and cardio-metabolically protective properties.

For many of Minnesota's Native Americans, wild rice is described as a sacred food valued for its life-giving properties; "Manoomin, or wild rice, is a gift given to the Anishinaabek from the Creator, and is a centerpiece of the nutrition and sustenance for our community". Given the health disparities found in Minnesota’s Native American communities, the preservation of a treasured food source is essential for the physical, mental and spiritual health of many tribal members.

Historically, aspects of academic research involving wild rice in Minnesota have been problematic. Early wild rice research at the University of Minnesota resulted in a modified native wild rice which ultimately birthed the paddy rice industry. While university research efforts ushered in a new form of agriculture and economic prosperity for paddy rice growers in our state, the rise of this industry resulted in profound and enduring negative cultural and economic consequences for many members of our tribal communities. Further, the promotion of paddy rice, or domesticated wild rice, created a legacy of mistrust and anger between many tribal members and the university research establishment.

Mindful of this painful schism, this proposed collaboration moves deliberately to answer scientific questions shared by tribal and academic researchers while fostering a relationship of mutual respect and support. A critical shared question is how aqueous sulfate impacts the nutritional content of manoomin or wild rice (Zizania palustris), an annual aquatic plant. Sulfate levels are typically low in Minnesota’s rice lakes, but anthropogenic sources of sulfate release can accompany a variety of human endeavors, including agricultural runoff, municipal services (e.g. water treatment facilities) and industrial operations (e.g. hard rock mines, tanneries, paper pulp mills).

Currently, it is unknown how the nutritional composition of wild rice is affected by increasing sulfate exposure during the plant’s growth. However, an expanding body of research does reveal a complex relationship between wild rice growth and aquatic sulfate. In the 2017 article by Co-I Pastor PhD and colleagues, research demonstrated a decline in wild rice seedling emergence, seedling survival, biomass growth, viable seed production, and seed mass with sulfate additions.

If sulfate has a negative effect on these aspects of the rice plant's life cycle, it likely impacts the nutritional content of the wild rice seeds. And if the nutritional content is changed, how might this affect the nutritional benefits of eating wild rice for humans? The published literature on the nutritional value of wild rice describes the effect of wild rice on various human health-related parameters, such as cholesterol or inflammatory mediators. But notably, the literature does not describe how the physiological and biochemical effects of eating wild rice may be altered by ingesting rice grown under different sulfate conditions. Our new, interdisciplinary research partnership is well positioned to begin to approach this timely question. This partnership builds on successful collaboration between Pastor and Schuldt by adding Dr. Onello to pursue this new and innovative research direction.

2017 Grantees

Community-University Partnership Grant Program

Title: Nudging Our Way to Health 

Community PI: Mary Mitchell, Director, Bemidji Community Food Shelf

University PI: Linda Kingery, Executive Director, University of Minnesota Extension – Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships

Amount Awarded: $24,854

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: Bemijdi Community Food Shelf is a large, client-choice food shelf located in northern Minnesota, in the city of Bemidji, and between three Ojibwe Nations: Red Lake Nation Band, the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, and the White Earth Nation. BCFS serves 3,000 families in Beltrami County and the Bemidji Area School District, which extends into neighboring Hubbard County. Sixty-five percent of food shelf users identify as Native American. In 2014 the food shelf began the Farm Project to provide fresh produce to its customers. The Farm includes fields, a high tunnel and a new deep winter greenhouse, constructed in partnership with the University of Minnesota. Employing all of these technologies will allow year-round production of produce, with greens being the major winter option. Incidents of high blood pressure and diabetes are much higher in Beltrami County than the state average. County Health Rankings places Beltrami County at 84 of 87 counties in Minnesota. Regular consumption of fresh produce can improve health outcomes. As the Farm moves forward with four-season production, BCFS staff wants to ascertain the comfort level of its customers regarding fresh produce, particularly fresh greens with which they may be unfamiliar and to nudge them into using them at home. To improve outcomes for food shelf users, particularly the Native American population, participatory research will be conducted to determine what types of produce – focused on the produce that can be grown on the farm, high tunnel and deep winter greenhouse - food shelf users are currently using and how they are preparing them. With its partners, BCFS will engage with customers through surveys, focus groups, sampling and culturally appropriate education. The results of this study will help determine what will be planted in the Deep Winter Greenhouse and in the spring, the farm and high tunnel as well as finding ways to reduce barriers for customers regarding interacting with, and volunteering on, the farm. The food shelf has applied for a SuperShelf grant through the University of Minnesota. It was not approved, but there are some activities built into this proposal that help BCFS encourage healthier choices. 

Title: Building Hmong Farmers' Capacity and Self-efficacy to Tackle Soil Fertility Issues

Community PI: Pakou Hang, Executive Director, Hmong American Farmers Association

University PI: Julie Grossman, Associate Professor, Department of Horticultural Science, University of Minnesota

Amount Awarded: $49,913

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: Hmong farmers provide much of the locally grown fresh produce in the Twin Cities, yet often work on low fertility soils due to limited land tenure possibilities. Cover crops are useful alternatives to costly synthetic fertilizer options, and additionally provide a multitude of environmental benefits. In particular, legume cover crops are capable of transforming abundant atmospheric nitrogen into a form of nitrogen that crop plants can use. Both the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA) and the Grossman Lab at the University of Minnesota have demonstrated the utility of zone tilled cover cropping practices, where cover crops are maintained between crops rows that are tilled only in the crop’s growing zone. The goal of this project is to examine the effect of three modified zone till systems at the HAFA Farm (white clover between rows and regularly mowed, white clover between rows without mowing, and allowing weed growth in rows). Hmong farmers will have a strong voice in determining experimental design (eg, choosing cash crops, timing of field activities), methods (eg, mowing frequency, harvest practices), and data collection (eg, cover crop biomass, soil health assays). Soil health and fertility parameters will be assessed and shared through multiple participatory and culturally-appropriate farmers trainings, presentations, educational events, and farm tours. Overall, results will increase Hmong farmers’ confidence in and ability to use legumes in zone tilled cropping systems for intensive vegetable production. 

Title: Creative Approaches to Healthy Food Incentives for North Minneapolis Retailers

Community PI: Miah Ulysse, Northside Fresh Coordinator & Policy Manager, Appetite for Change/Northside Fresh Coalition

University PI: Jamie Bain, U of M Health and Nutrition Extension Educator, Metro Region - UROC Office

Amount Awarded: $50,000

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: North Minneapolis has long been labeled a food desert and associated with a lack of healthy, fresh, and affordable food options. Northside Fresh Coalition is seeking funding from Healthy Foods Healthy Lives to design and implement an incentive program that will increase fresh and local produce affordability and purchase from Northside food retailers who have a commitment to serving the community. The proposed project will establish Fresh Bucks, a transactional incentive program that would allow SNAP customers to stretch their dollars and purchase more produce. The intended result will be 1) increase produce purchase and consumption, 2) provide demand for Northside/locally grown produce and 3) generate traffic and revenue to newly established community-focused Northside food retailers.

University Faculty Research Grant Program

Title: Improving Metabolism in Overweight Humans by Implementing Time Restricted Feeding Using Novel Mobile Technology

PI(s): Lisa Chow, MD MS Associate Professor, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Medical School, U of M

Co-Investigator(s): Douglas G. Mashek, PhD Associate Professor, (Joint Appointment) Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics (BMBB), CBS and Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, Medical School, U of M

Amount Awarded: $100,000

Length of Project: 2 Years

Abstract:Given the obesity epidemic, there is intense medical and public interest in dietary and lifestyle management to mitigate obesity and its associated complications. Although weight loss has traditionally focused on restricting calories, we know that most people are unable to maintain the caloric restriction required to long term weight loss or maintenance. This proposal will address whether restricting the timing of food intake, rather than restricting calories, may facilitate weight loss and provide metabolic benefits. It has been recently shown that the average American eats over the course of 15 hours per day. Such an eating cycle dictates that most people are always in a fed metabolic state and likely misaligns circadian patterns. Time-restricted feeding (TRF) is the process of limiting food consumption to a specific window of time (e.g. 8 hours per day) and is associated with weight loss in humans and metabolic improvements in rodent studies. Significant advances in digital mobile technology now allow further detailed measures of an individual’s habits to facilitate this analysis. Thus, the objective of this study is to test the health related effects of 12 week TRF (8 hour fed and 16 hour fasting cycle) in overweight/obese adults. We hypothesize that TRF will 1) improve sleep duration, sleep efficacy, increase activity and increase basal metabolic rate, 2) promote weight loss and lower body fat, and 3) improve insulin sensitivity and postprandial hyperglycemia. We expect these studies to show that TRF is effective and sustainable approach to improving metabolic parameters in overweight/obese individuals.  

Title: Dietary impact on intestinal sulfate metabolism

PI(s): Alexander Khoruts, MD Professor, Medicine

Co-Investigator(s): Michael J. Sadowsky, PhD Distinguished McKnight Professor, PhD Dept. of Soil, Water, and Climate Byron P. Vaughn, MD Assistant Professor, Medicine

Amount Awarded: $100,000

Length of Project: 2 Years

Abstract: The intestinal microbiota plays a central role in the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD); however, the specific mechanisms involved remain poorly understood. The composition and activity of intestinal microbiota is highly responsive to nutrient input. Therefore, it is likely that specific diets modulate the degree of intestinal inflammation in IBD patients. Our long-term goal is to develop nutritional strategies to treat IBD. We hypothesize that a diet high in sulfur-containing amino acids (SAAs) and animal-derived fats results in higher rates of sulfate reduction in the colon and production of sulfur-containing end-products such as hydrogen sulfide, as compared to a low sulfur diet. There is compelling circumstantial evidence that these sulfur compounds may play a direct role in the pathogenesis of ulcerative colitis, one of the main subtypes of IBD. This proposal is our first step toward designing and implementing an interventional nutritional clinical trial in IBD to compliment medical therapies. Specifically, we will test the effects of high sulfur and low sulfur diets in highly motivated healthy volunteers. We will examine the effects of these dietary extremes on the microbiota composition and production of specific end products of colonic fermentation, including hydrogen sulfide. In addition, the project will allow us to test the feasibility of a low sulfur diet, which will be needed for longer-term interventions in clinical protocols.

University Faculty Planning Grant Program

Title: Community Based Social Marketing with Somali Grocery: In-store Interventions Address Food Security and Diabetes Management

PI(s): Serdar Mamedov, M.S., CHES®, Extension Educator, Health and Nutrition Programs, Center for Family Development, U of MN Extension; Ren Olive, B.A., University of MN - Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships, Program Associate, Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems;

Co-Investigator(s): Melissa Laska, PhD, RD, Associate Professor, Epidemiology & Community Health, University of Minnesota; Muna Sunni, MBBCh, MS, University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, Assistant Professor, Pediatric Endocrinology, University of Minnesota; Hikaru Peterson, Ph.D, Professor, CFANS Applied Economics, University of Minnesota; Molly Zins, MS, University of MN Central Executive Director for the Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships; Anne Dybsetter, MS, University of MN Southwest Executive Director for the Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships; Kathryn Draeger, Ph.D., University of MN Statewide Director for the Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships, Adjunct Assistant Professor, CFANS Agronomy/Plant Genetics, University of Minnesota; Abdulahi Dohe, M.Sc., University of MN - Extension Program Associate, SNAP-Ed Educator, Health and Nutrition Programs, Family Development

Amount Awarded: $9,849

Length of Project: 6 months  

Title: Neuroinflammatory biomarkers in obesity and cognitive decline

PI(s): David A. Bernlohr, PhD, College of Biological Sciences, University of Minnesota; Tammy A. Butterick, PhD, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota; Michael K. Lee, PhD, Department of Neuroscience, University of Minnesota; Joshua P. Nixon, PhD, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota

Amount Awarded: $10,000

Length of Project: 6 months

Graduate and Professional Research Grant Program

Title: Use of Bedside Ultrasound to Assess Neonatal Body Composition in the Neonatal Intensive Case Unit

PI(s): Sara Ramel, MD University of Minnesota Department of Pediatrics Division of Neonatology

Student Investigator: Emily M. Nagel, MS, RD, LD, CNSC, Doctoral Student, Nutrition

Advisor(s): Carrie P. Earthman, PhD, RD, LD University of Minnesota - Dept. of Food Science and Nutrition

Amount Awarded: $10,000

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: Premature infants have decreased fat-free mass and increased overall adiposity compared to full term infants at term corrected age and may be at increased risk to develop childhood obesity. Although weight is primarily used by clinicians to monitor growth status, body composition methods that distinguish between fat mass and fat-free mass can evaluate the quality of weight gain.4 Many validated methods of body composition for the neonatal population require medical stability and/or are unsuitable for frequent repeated measurements. In contrast, ultrasound can be performed at the patient’s bedside, with minimal movement of the patient and without exposure to radiation, allowing for more frequent measurements regardless of the patient’s medical stability. We hypothesize that ultrasound is an accurate method to routinely monitor the quality of weight gain and assess the adequacy of nutritional provision for premature infants in the neonatal intensive care unit. We will address this hypothesis by validating ultrasound as a method to quantify whole body fat and fat-free mass in the premature neonatal population against air displacement plethysmography and by testing whether ultrasound can detect clinically significant changes in body composition in healthy premature infants. Should this study establish ultrasound as a valid method for obtaining body composition in premature infants, its ability to routinely monitor body composition will allow for the development of new nutritional recommendations for healthy and critically ill premature infants. Individualized nutritional recommendations that target gains in fat-free mass and reduction of central adiposity may ultimately improve neurodevelopment and decrease the risk for childhood obesity and metabolic disease later in life. Future studies may use body composition to predict outcomes such as disease prognosis and survivability for critically ill infants and children.


Title: Can Social Capital Help Immigrant Families Overcome Food Insecurity

PI(s): Harshada Karnik PhD Program, Applied Economics

Advisor(s): Hikaru Peterson, PhD Profesor of Applied Economics, U of M

Amount Awarded: $10,000

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: This study examines the relationship between social capital and food security among low-income immigrant households through a natural experiment where host cities of incoming refugees are exogenously predetermined. In 2015, 13% of the American population was born in a country other than the U.S. This group Experiences higher rates of food insecurity as compared to the national average. While several studies have addressed financial constraints and programs implemented to overcome them to ensure food security, research related to social capital held within the community that could enable food insecure households to overcome non-financial barriers is relatively scarce. Unlike other immigrants, refugees cannot choose their places of settlement; it is predetermined by an administrative process. Refugees thus find varying size of communities from their cultural background in the cities they are placed. This provides opportunity to determine whether social capital, defined here as benefits occurring due to exchange of information and reciprocal services offered within the familial community, facilitates food security through reciprocal services and information channels. I would expect refugee households with higher levels of social capital to be more consistently food secure as compared to their counterparts with lower social capital who may be food secure in some months and food insecure in other months. Positive effects of social capital on food security would suggest that cash transfer programs could be more effective if complemented with program that address non-monetary barriers at a community level; insignificant or negative results would provide additional evidence that the root cause of food insecurity is financial constraints and that it is imperative to address poverty to ensure food security.


Title: Connecting Individuals and Organizations through a Statewide Mapping System with the Minnesota Food Charter

PI(s): Nicole Helgeson Masters in Geographic Information Systems (MGIS) MGIS/Geography

Advisor(s): Susanna McMaster Staff, CLA Geography, Environment and Society

Amount Awarded: $9.790.51

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: The Minnesota Food Charter Network (MFCN) is an exciting, interdisciplinary, statewide effort to create a healthier food system in Minnesota. The MCFN is creating new opportunities for individuals and organizations to engage collectively to implement strategies from the Minnesota Food Charter (MFC), a roadmap containing 99 research based strategies for change. Since December 2016, I have been a part of one of the MFCN teams and have begun to provide leadership to a highly innovative project to introduce a crowdsourced mapping system as a learning and capacity-building tool for the network and all citizens of Minnesota. With dedicated funding support beyond May 2017, I will be able to continue to launch, evaluate, improve the mapping system, and explore opportunities to integrate the system with interdisciplinary research opportunities across campus.

Community-University Partnership Planning Grant Program

Title: HCMC & Open Arms

Community PI(s): Leah Hebert Welles, Director, Open Arms April Bogard, Open Arms

University PI(s): Caitlin Caspi, Assistant Professor, Family Medicine and Community Health, U of M Lisa Harnack, PhD, Professor, Public Health, Epidemiology and Community Health, U of M

Amount Awarded: $9,831.95

Length of Project: 1 Year


Title: Creative Approaches to Food Incentives for North Minneapolis Retailers

Community PI(s): Miah Ulysse Appetite for Change/Northside Fresh Coalition

University PI(s): Jamie Bain U of M Extension, UROC (SNAP-Ed) Program

Amount Awarded: $10,000

Length of Project: 1 Year