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

2016 Grantees

Community-University Partnership Grant Program

Title: Upstream Approach to Addressing American Indian Health Inequities: A partnership of the University of Minnesota and the American Indian Cancer Foundation 

Community PIs: Kristine Rhodes, MPH, Chief Executive Officer, American Indian Cancer Foundation 

University PI: Milton Eder, PhD, Director, Office of Community Engagement to Advance Research and Community Health, University of Minnesota 

Amount Awarded: $50,000

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: American Indian peoples’ cultural practices related to growing, harvesting, cooking and preserving food have been disrupted by the United States government and replaced with highly processed unhealthy food. The high sodium, low nutrient dense diet has greatly contributed to the disparately high rates of cancer and other chronic illnesses afflicting American Indian communities today. The need for an upstream focus on prevention rooted in revitalization of cultural health promoting practices has been identified by American Indian communities as a priority to address the tremendous health inequities facing American Indians. The proposed project aims to meet the priority needs identified by the community by developing a framework that can be used by American Indian communities to integrate aspects of culture into plans/policies/work in cancer prevention and control activities. The proposed project would establish a working team of committed partners to share in strategic development of the framework informed by a synthesis of existing data from focus groups previously held by the American Indian Cancer Foundation. The proposed framework would be disseminated to tribal and urban American Indian communities to help reclaim traditional health promotion and disease prevention practices rooted in culture. 

Title: Nuestra Salud, Nuestro Futuro: Our Health, Our Future - Developing a Nutrition-Based Model for Latino Youth Health Promoters

Community PI: Ernesto Vélez Bustos, Executive Director, Centro Campesino

University PI: Oscar W. Garza, PhD, MBA, Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Care and Health Systems

Amount Awarded: $50,000

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: Minnesota’s Latino population is one of the fastest growing ethnic minority populations and the number of Latino children have quintupled since 1990, now comprising about 10% of the state’s under-18 population. Recent data suggest that Latino youth are more likely to be overweight or obese than their white and non-Latino black peers and that almost 40% of Latino youth ages 2-19 are overweight and over 20% are obese. In Minnesota, the highest proportion of Latinos live in southern and central Minnesota, primarily working in the agricultural sector employed in farming, food processing, and manufacturing plants. The health status, prevalence and incidence of illness and disease, and access to healthy food of Minnesota’s agricultural workers have proven difficult to measure. It has been recognized that vulnerability is multi-factorial (e.g., language and transportation barriers), however the factors that contribute to the vulnerability of Minnesota’s Latino agricultural workers and their families remain undefined. The objective of this pilot project is to utilize a community-based approach to assess factors impacting healthy food insecurity, obesity and diet-related diseases and to pilot a bilateral youth health promoter and community health education program. Findings from this study are expected to reveal (1) a critical analysis of the mechanisms that influence healthy food access in rural agricultural communities, and (2) the impact of an interdisciplinary, intersectoral, community-engaged partnership on the development of culturally competent health professionals and Latino youth from the agricultural community that will serve as a new model of youth health promoters designed to improve community health education for the prevention of diabetes and other diet-related diseases.

Title: Improving Healthy Food Practices Through Traditional Indigenous Growing Technologies

Community PI: José Luis Villaseñor Rangel, Executive Director Tamales y Bicicletas

University PIs: Lorena Munoz, Assistant Professor GWSS and American Studies

Amount Awarded: $50,719

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: The proposed participatory community based project is the start-up of an Urban Farming Institute (UFI) in the East Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis. The UFI would primary educate Latinos, East African and American Indian youth and their families on urban farming and sustainability to create greater access to healthy foods and healthy food practices. The institute will build on Tamales y Bicicletas community garden project in the newly constructed industrial water yard (Rood Depot) in the East Phillips neighborhood. The City of Minneapolis has allocated this space for Tamales and Bicicletas to develop a rooftop urban gardening initiative, including a creation of an Urban Farming Institute to promote healthy food education, knowledge production on indigenous growing technologies and hands on food production and distribution to neighborhood residents. The Urban Farming Institute will be a community created, organized and sustained effort where youth of color will be active participants in the planning and implementation of the institute.

Title: Next Steps in Reshaping the North Minneapolis Local Food System: Connecting to North High School

Community PI: Michael Chaney, Community Activist & Organizer, Project Sweetie Pie

University PI: Dr. Mary Rogers, Assistant Professor, Sustainable & Organic Horticultural Food Production Systems, Department of Horticultural Science, CFANS

Amount Awarded: $50,000

Length of Project: 2nd Year

Abstract: The purpose of this project is to 1) build on the work already underway at North High and in the North Side around healthy food, community gardens, composting and recycling, youth education, and community engagement; 2) engage North High students in meaningful STEM experiential learning and skill development projects; 3) bring community leaders and researchers inside the classroom and students to the “classroom” outside the school walls, 4) pilot test practices around the cultivation of microgreens, aquaponics and comporting needed for future gardening and greenhouse projects planned for the North Side, 5) foster a cadre of young adults that have a greater understanding of the relationship between the food they eat and their own health, 6) foster a cadre of young adults and community leaders that have the skills and the motivation to continue working on improving health outcomes in the North Side through healthy food habits, knowledge of food systems, STEM job skills and community engagement.

This project also builds on PSP’s HFHL planning grant received in the Fall of 2015, which focused on community engagement and participatory planning for the Camden Greenhouse at Humboldt and Dowling. The planning team completed over 120 surveys, held multiple community meetings and a design workshop attended by some 50 Northside residents and stakeholders. From these discussions, three priorities emerged: youth engagement, learning and leadership; a business facility focused on horticulture, local food production and processing; and adult education focused on urban farming, nutrition, and healthy living. In this phase, the green room at North High and other community projects will be demonstrations that test and provide directly relevant information for the design and implementation for the Camden Greenhouse, while also leading directly to positive health impacts.


University Faculty Research Grant Program

Title: Linking environmental and dietary factors to the anti-carcinogenic effects of the Mediterranean Lifestyle

PI(s): Douglas G. Mashek, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Food Science & Nutrition, College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences, U of M

Co-Investigator(s): Li Li Ji, PhD, Director, School of Kinesiology, Professor and Director, Laboratory of Physiological Hygiene and Exercise Science, U of M; Guisheng Song, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine: Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition

Amount Awarded: $100,000

Length of Project: 2 Years

Abstract: The Mediterranean Diet (MD), often considered the gold standard of diets, reduces the risk of cancer as well as other metabolic diseases. However, the biological mechanism defining how the MD reduces disease risk is largely unknown. Early studies suggested consumption of resveratrol, a bioactive compound in red wine, activated the protein sirtuin 1 (SIRT1), a protein deacetylase well documented to increase lifespan and decrease aging related diseases including cancer. However, subsequent work has shown that effects of resveratrol on SIRT1 are not specific and require supraphysiological doses. Herein, we show preliminary data that point towards a viable and novel biological mechanism that links the MD to SIRT1 activation. We show that the fatty acid oleate, which is enriched in foods common to the MD, such as olive oil and nuts, is a direct activator of SIRT1. Interestingly, dietary oleate must first be stored in cellular triacylglycerol and subsequently undergo lipolysis before it can activate SIRT1; the enzyme adipose triglyceride lipase (ATGL) is responsible for the lipolytic cleavage of oleate from triacylglycerol stores. In support, our preliminary data also show that overexpression of ATGL reduces proliferation in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cell lines and in hepatocytes stimulated by growth factors. Based on these studies, we hypothesize that dietary oleate will synergize with exercise or calorie restriction, processes known to induce lipolysis, to attenuate HCC development. Thus, the objective is to determine the interaction between dietary oleate (e.g. olive oil) and either exercise or caloric restriction on HCC development in carcinogen-induced murine models of HCC. We expect these studies to help define a novel biological mechanism describing the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet/Lifestyle, and provide strong preliminary data to pursue external funds for both mechanistic and translational studies in cancer prevention and treatment.


Graduate and Professional Research Grant Program

Title: Immigrant Healthy Gut Project: Characterization of the obesogenic gut microbiome among Hmong and Karen Immigrants

Student Investigator: Pajau Vangay, Biomedical Informatics and Computational Biology, Ph.D Program (2013 - 2017), Computer Science and Engineering Department, College of Science and Engineering

Advisor(s): Dan Knights, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering and the Biotechnology Institute, College of Science and Engineering, U of M

Amount Awarded: $9,926

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: Immigrants in the US, such as the Somali in Minnesota, are developing chronic “new world” diseases such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease at alarming rates. Recent studies indicate that the trillions of bacteria living in the intestines, known as the gut microbiome, play an important role in many of these “new world” diseases, including potential causal roles in obesity. An individual’s resident gut microbes are partly dependent on dietary and environmental exposures, and yet can also be a causal factor in disease. A drastic and permanent change in dietary and environmental exposures, characteristic of immigration, could lead to disruption of gut homeostasis. This project will test the hypotheses that immigration from developing countries to the US induces loss of important microbial members in the native gut microbiome, predisposing the host to obesity, and that increasing dietary fiber intake supports maintenance of the native microbiome. Our study analyzes bacterial taxonomic marker genes from stool samples in 80 Somali women stratified by body mass index and years spent in the US. We will also evaluate the effect of increased dietary fiber consumption in reversing the effects of dietary changes and through changes in microbial composition and metabolite profiles in the gut microbiome. Our collaboration with the Somali, Latino and Hmong (SoLaHmo) Partnership for Health and Wellness at West Side Community Health Services provides an unparalleled opportunity to partner and conduct multi-community research with the Somali communities in Minnesota. We expect the results from this study to provide novel insights into how the gut microbiome and host metabolism change after immigration, determine whether dietary fiber consumption can minimize these changes, and lay the groundwork for future therapeutics and community dietary practice interventions to prevent obesity in immigrant and refugee populations.


Community-University Partnership Planning Grant Program

Title: Ninandawaabandaamin (We are searching for it)

Community PI(s): Nicole Buckanaga, Ojibwe Language Coordinator, Gaa’Oziskwaajimekaag Gabe Gikendaasoowigamig, Leech Lake Tribal College (LLTC)

University PI(s): Noelle Harden, Extension Educator, Health and Nutrition, UM Extension Regional Office Moorhead, MN

Amount Awarded: $8,350

Length of Project: 6 Months

Abstract: The purpose of this project is to bring together through an immersive and participatory process a team of Leech Lake (LL) Community members, Leech Lake Tribal College (LLTC) staff, University of Minnesota Extension (Extension) faculty, and one UMD student to accomplish two objectives: 1. Create a model berry module for an Ojibwe-based food literacy curriculum by gathering, preparing, and cooking meals together, and co-generating critical knowledge and skills. 2. Establish a grounded process to continue collaborating to build the Ojibwe-based food literacy curriculum through an immersive in a manner that embraces the Ojibwe world view through an Ojibwe-based research paradigm with cultural methodologies and tribal ownership.


University Faculty Research Planning Grant Program

Title: A multidisciplinary team to establish a lasting solution for childhood iron deficiency

PI(s): Sarah Cusick, PhD, Assistant Professor, Division of Global Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, Medical School (primary corresponding investigator)

Co-Investigator(s): Daniel Gallaher, PhD, Professor, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, FSCN, CFANS; Tonya Schoenfuss, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, FSCN, CFANS; Paul Porter, PhD, Professor, Department of Agronomy, CFANS; Ryan Fink, PhD, Adjunct Professor Department of Food Science and Nutrition, FSCN, CFANS

Amount Awarded: $10,000

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world, affecting approximately 70% of the global population, with 30% thought to be anemic as a result.1 The primary effect in adults is a profound, debilitating fatigue. Childhood iron deficiency, however, is far more insidious. In the early stages, activity of hemoproteins in the brain is altered, dopamine neurotransmitter synthesis is blunted, and neuronal energy production is diminished. If the timing of deficiency coincides with a period of peak brain need for iron, irreparable structural damage to the hippocampus and striatum may occur, resulting in deficits in cognition that remain apparent decades later. The devastating impact of childhood iron deficiency lies in the sheer number of children affected. More than 500 million children worldwide are iron-deficient.1 In some regions of the world, including in Africa and South Asia, two out of every three children younger than five years of age have some degree of iron deficiency.1 When two-thirds of an entire region’s children have insufficient iron to support brain development and thus achievement of an optimal developmental trajectory, economic productivity and quality of life of the entire region are lowered. We have brought together an interdisciplinary team of experts to address the intractable challenge of childhood iron deficiency using an innovative, agriculturally based approach. The current approaches to preventing iron deficiency—supplements and fortification—are simply not working, despite three decades of global recognition of iron deficiency as a substantial public health burden and intense global effort aimed at its resolution. We think instead that the solution may lie in a common tree, and in this proposal we will describe how our team will work towards HFHL health issue #2 by preventing the diet-related disease of childhood iron deficiency with a solution that promises to exact profound policy-level change (HFHL priority #2). What we know: Global policy aimed at addressing childhood iron deficiency is not working and may be dangerous in high-infection settings.

The seemingly intractable problem of childhood iron deficiency may have a solution in the form of a common tree. The Moringa tree is native to the sub-Himalayan tracts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, but grows in more than 100 countries in tropical and sub-tropical zones, including in Africa, Asia, South and Central America, and Oceania. The tree has more than 30 different names, including Horseradish Tree, Drumstick Tree, and Mother’s Best Friend. The Moringa tree has 13 distinct subspecies, the most common being Moringa oleifera. It is drought-resistant and fast-growing, maturing from seed to flower in only eight months. Moringa leaves, bark, stem, and seeds are widely recognized for their nutritional and anti- infective properties and are informally used in re-feeding centers, from Haiti to India to the Philippines. Moringa leaves, in particular, are nutrient-dense, with sizeable amounts of protein, calcium, zinc, β-carotene, and iron. They are most often consumed as a tea or are ground into a powder and mixed into food. Despite substantial anecdotal evidence of Moringa tree’s benefit in boosting nutritional status and some laboratory analysis of nutritional content, no research base exists to support the widespread use of Moringa for specific health outcomes, including improvement of iron status. Our project will bridge this gap in knowledge and use of Moringa to determine whether the tree could become a solution for safe and sustainable achievement of optimal iron status in young children. This project will bridge this gap in knowledge and use of Moringa to determine whether the tree could become a solution for safe and sustainable achievement of optimal iron status in young children.

 

Title: Sucralose, Stevia, Gut Microbiome and Glucose Metabolism

PI(s): Lyn M. Steffen PhD, MPH, RD, Associate Professor, Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, School of Public Health

Co-Investigator(s): Shalamar Sibley, MD, MPH, Associate Professor, Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, Department of Medicine, Medical School & Dan Knights, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering and the Biotechnology Institute, College of Science and Engineering

Amount Awarded: $28,560

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: Over 25 million people have diabetes now and by 2050, it is predicted that 1/3 of Americans will have developed diabetes (www.cdc.gov). Major risk factors for type 2 diabetes include glucose intolerance, overweight and obesity. The prevalence of obesity increased from 14.5% in 1971-74 to 23.2% in 1988-94 to 34.9% by 2011-12 (Ogden CL, 2014). Interestingly, the number of Americans consuming non-caloric sweeteners (NCS) products grew from 70 million in 1987 to 160 million in 2000. NCS products, such as saccaharin, sucralose, aspartame, and stevia, are pervasively used by children, adolescents, and adults in the general population, with diet beverages being the greatest contributor to NCS consumption (Gardner, 2012).  Although NCS use may help regulate blood sugar control acutely, use of particular NCS agents has been associated with increasing adiposity, insulin resistance, and incident T2DM longitudinally in some studies (Swithers, 2013). A 2014 study by Suez et al. demonstrated intakes of NCS saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame promoted glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota in a mouse model (Suez, 2014). Alterations in the gut microbiota have also been shown to play a causal role in obesity (Al-Ghalith, 2015). In contrast, there is evidence suggesting that the NCS stevia is metabolically different than other NCS, including sucralose, aspartame, and saccharin. Many animal and human studies testing the effect of stevia on glucose metabolism have demonstrated lower insulin and glucose levels (Anton, 2010) but no studies (using a commercial stevia product) to date have examined glucose tolerance status. However, one Brazilian study in adults found improved glucose tolerance when consuming for 3 days an aqueous extract of stevia rebaudiana leaves (Curi, 1986). The epidemiologic evidence is mounting that NCS consumption is associated with metabolic abnormalities in healthy populations (Lutsey, 2008; Swithers 2013). And more recent experimental results of Suez et al. link NCS consumption with impaired glucose tolerance (Suez, 2014); however, other studies of the NCS Stevia show contrasting results (Anton, 2010). Therefore, further controlled experimental research is needed to confirm the opposing results of the different NCS. Though one recent meta-analysis failed to find adverse effects related to NCS use on weight gain, (Rogers, 2015), there are few studies published about the influence of longer term use of sucralose or stevia on glucose tolerance among lean and obese adults.  The human gut is home to trillions of microorganisms that typically belong to around 300 and 1000 bacterial species. These microbes help train the immune system, protect us from pathogens, and assist in dietary nutrient extraction, among other roles. Over the last few decades, the incidence of chronic conditions such as obesity, allergy, asthma, inflammatory bowel, disease, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and diabetes mellitus have increased dramatically, and a growing set of these diseases has been linked to shifts in host-associated microbial communities. The gut microbiome of the human is highly susceptible to disruptions, and alterations in gut bacterial species which can have long-term effects. Numerous prospective studies have associated intake of artificial sweeteners with the development of T2DM, abnormal lipid levels, and cardiovascular disease (CVD) (Lutsey, 2008; Nettleton 2009). In addition, animal studies have linked alterations in the microbiome to certain NCS consumption, such as aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin (Suez 2014; Abou-Donia 2008). However, clinical studies in humans exploring the influence of NCS sucralose and stevia on the gut microbiome and glucose tolerance among lean and obese adults have not yet been conducted. This project leverages complementary strengths in epidemiology, complex diseases including obesity and metabolic syndrome, clinical informatics, and microbiome analysis from investigators at our university. This team’s prior work demonstrates that the investigators have extensive experience with clinical research in the fields of obesity and diabetes, specifically with defining the epidemiology and pathophysiology of these conditions, and with the collection, processing, and analysis of human gut microbiome data and other data; to assess and characterize perturbations in the microbial composition in host organisms.

2015 Grantees

Community-University Partnership Grant Program

Title: Exploring and assessing the needs, challenges and opportunities to provide culturally appropriate outreach with Hmong American farmers in Minnesota

Community PIs: Mai Pa Kou Yang, Communications Associate, Farmers’ Legal Action Group, Inc. (FLAG)& Kathy Zeman, Operations Manager, Minnesota Farmers Market Association (MFMA)

University PI: Annalisa Hultberg, MS, Research Fellow, Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, College of Science and Engineering (CSE) and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS)

Amount Awarded: $49,991

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: Hmong-American farmers comprise a significant and growing portion of the farmers in Minnesota and the region, yet many of these farmers describe a lack of access to culturally-appropriate agricultural education. Through previous outreach projects (some funded by HFHL), the project team has documented a concerning lack of assistance or outreach that is targeted to the needs or learning styles of Hmong farmers. These farmers have questions regarding agricultural production, food safety and postharvest handling, crop disease and pests, marketing, organic/sustainable production practices, improving soil health, record keeping, insurance and applications for loans and land purchase, yet there are few resources or organizations able to answer these questions. Current University or non-profit based agricultural outreach is primarily targeted toward English-speaking farmers and is often web-based. This innovative partnership will use participatory research methods to hear from the farmers themselves about these concerns, documenting farmer’s stories and ideas, and then will share the information with the Hmong community, educators, Extension, and others who are interested in improving educational resources for Hmong farmers.

The goal of this project is to 1.) Work directly with to Hmong farmers to document the unique challenges that they face as they farm in the region, 2.) Identify the information that Hmong farmers seek for their farming operations and how they wish to access information, and 3.) Based on this information, suggest innovative outreach strategies and methods for Extension and other agricultural educators to better work with Hmong farmers. This project will use surveys, focus groups and in-depth interviews to hear from Hmong farmers, and will share results via a Community Research Forum with partners, Extension, Minnesota Department of Agriculture and others. As a result, Hmong and other underserved farmers will show improved farm sustainability and profitability, access to farm-related information, and long-term collaborations and partnerships with organizations and resources in the state.

Title: The Community Apiary Project, Year II: Education, Job Training, and Project Sustainability

Community PI: Mark-Peter Lundquist, VP Outreach, Urban Ventures

University PI: Rebecca Masterman, Associate Program Director, University of Minnesota Bee Lab’s Bee Squad, CFANS

Amount Awarded: $49,837.75

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: Today, bees across the globe are facing an array of environmental threats to their health and viability. The USDA estimates that 30% of our fruits and vegetables are pollinated by insects, and that bees are responsible for 80% of that pollination. This community-university collaboration seeks to develop the capacity and increase the sustainability of our successfully established Community Apiary Project. This project focuses on beekeeping, community outreach & education, and honey production for South Minneapolis food-insecure community members. In 2015, the Community Apiary Project team used hands-on beekeeping training and community outreach to reach over 500 south Minneapolis community members on the importance of bees and other pollinators to our food system. The team’s mentorship program provided paid training and jobs to five low-income immigrant women and collaborated with Urban Ventures’ farming initiatives to grow healthy produce for food-insecure families. Next steps for this work includes: a) increasing the Community Apiary honey production and continue the Apiary Mentoring Program b) develop a business plan focused on using the honey produced at our apiary in a way that sustains workers, benefits Urban Ventures’ established school lunch program, and supports healthy food and pollinator education; and c) increasing the program’s impact by creating accessible curriculum while training high-school age students to be Pollinator Ambassadors (Presenters) in their schools, thereby imparting knowledge about food systems, bee and other insect pollinator biology to their contemporaries.

Title: Collaborative Evaluation of Urban Agricultural Best Management Practices for Ecosystem Services and Crop Production

Community PI: Dylan Bradford-Kesti, Program Coordinator/Organizer, Community Based Food Systems, Land Stewardship Project

University PIs: Nic Jelinski, Assistant Professor, Department of Soil, Water and Climate, CFANS & Mary Rogers, Assistant Professor, Sustainable & Organic Horticultural Food Production Systems, Department of Horticultural Science, CFANS

Amount Awarded: $50,000

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: Interest in urban agriculture is rapidly expanding at both national and local levels (NGA, 2014, Gardening Matters, 2014). The credibility of urban agricultural land use and management practices to serve as a recognized green infrastructure strategy that can serve multiple ecosystem functions and support horticultural crop production must be addressed to effectively evaluate and promote urban agricultural land use from a policy perspective. Despite this information demand, major gaps exist in research and available data on best management practices for urban agriculture, particularly at a local scale. In addition to horticultural crop production, effective management practices for urban agriculture may serve multiple important functions in the built environment, including increased infiltration, stormwater management, and habitat diversification. For example, in the City of Minneapolis, people who use best stormwater management practices (BMPs) on their properties can apply to receive reductions in their monthly stormwater utility fee as Stormwater Credits. Could urban agriculture serve as one of these best practices? Land Stewardship Project (LSP), in collaboration with Afro Eco (AE), Hope Community Inc. (Hope), The Freshwater Society (FWS), and University of MN partners (UMN) are utilizing community-based participatory action research to investigate the potential for urban agriculture as a credible green infrastructure strategy with co-benefits to land access, food access, economic development, and environmental sustainability. In order to investigate and quantify the ecosystem services and benefits of urban agriculture best stewardship practices on a site-specific scale the team designed and built five test urban agricultural sites. On these sites the team plans to evaluate the effects of urban agricultural management practices from the perspectives of crop production, soil quality and ecosystem services. This research will provide valuable information regarding the potential of urban agriculture as a credible green infrastructure strategy and the co-benefits of land access and food access building community health and wealth. In Phase I of the project, (Listening/Learning and Planning with Community, June- November 2015) the project team convened and engaged 50(+) community gardeners and urban farmers in focus groups to explore urban agriculture and water best management practices. These engaged community gardeners and urban farmers have informed the research and will be involved in Phase II of the project. The planning team managed Phase I of the project and built a team and a decision-making/governance process for the future phases of the project.

Title: Next Steps in Reshaping the North Minneapolis Local Food System: Connecting to North High School

Community PI: Michael Chaney, Community Activist & Organizer, Project Sweetie Pie

University PI: Dr. Mary Rogers, Assistant Professor, Sustainable & Organic Horticultural Food Production Systems, Department of Horticultural Science, CFANS

Amount Awarded: $50,000

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: The purpose of this project is to 1) build on the work already underway at North High and in the North Side around healthy food, community gardens, composting and recycling, youth education, and community engagement; 2) engage North High students in meaningful STEM experiential learning and skill development projects; 3) bring community leaders and researchers inside the classroom and students to the “classroom” outside the school walls, 4) pilot test practices around the cultivation of microgreens, aquaponics and comporting needed for future gardening and greenhouse projects planned for the North Side, 5) foster a cadre of young adults that have a greater understanding of the relationship between the food they eat and their own health, 6) foster a cadre of young adults and community leaders that have the skills and the motivation to continue working on improving health outcomes in the North Side through healthy food habits, knowledge of food systems, STEM job skills and community engagement.

This project also builds on PSP’s HFHL planning grant received in the Fall of 2015, which focused on community engagement and participatory planning for the Camden Greenhouse at Humboldt and Dowling. The planning team completed over 120 surveys, held multiple community meetings and a design workshop attended by some 50 Northside residents and stakeholders. From these discussions, three priorities emerged: youth engagement, learning and leadership; a business facility focused on horticulture, local food production and processing; and adult education focused on urban farming, nutrition, and healthy living. In this phase, the green room at North High and other community projects will be demonstrations that test and provide directly relevant information for the design and implementation for the Camden Greenhouse, while also leading directly to positive health impacts.


University Faculty Research Grant Program

Title: Linking environmental and dietary factors to the anti-carcinogenic effects of the Mediterranean Lifestyle

PI(s): Douglas G. Mashek, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Food Science & Nutrition, College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences, U of M

Co-Investigator(s): Li Li Ji, PhD, Director, School of Kinesiology, Professor and Director, Laboratory of Physiological Hygiene and Exercise Science, U of M; Guisheng Song, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine: Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition

Amount Awarded: $100,000

Length of Project: 2 Years

Abstract: The Mediterranean Diet (MD), often considered the gold standard of diets, reduces the risk of cancer as well as other metabolic diseases. However, the biological mechanism defining how the MD reduces disease risk is largely unknown. Early studies suggested consumption of resveratrol, a bioactive compound in red wine, activated the protein sirtuin 1 (SIRT1), a protein deacetylase well documented to increase lifespan and decrease aging related diseases including cancer. However, subsequent work has shown that effects of resveratrol on SIRT1 are not specific and require supraphysiological doses. Herein, we show preliminary data that point towards a viable and novel biological mechanism that links the MD to SIRT1 activation. We show that the fatty acid oleate, which is enriched in foods common to the MD, such as olive oil and nuts, is a direct activator of SIRT1. Interestingly, dietary oleate must first be stored in cellular triacylglycerol and subsequently undergo lipolysis before it can activate SIRT1; the enzyme adipose triglyceride lipase (ATGL) is responsible for the lipolytic cleavage of oleate from triacylglycerol stores. In support, our preliminary data also show that overexpression of ATGL reduces proliferation in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cell lines and in hepatocytes stimulated by growth factors. Based on these studies, we hypothesize that dietary oleate will synergize with exercise or calorie restriction, processes known to induce lipolysis, to attenuate HCC development. Thus, the objective is to determine the interaction between dietary oleate (e.g. olive oil) and either exercise or caloric restriction on HCC development in carcinogen-induced murine models of HCC. We expect these studies to help define a novel biological mechanism describing the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet/Lifestyle, and provide strong preliminary data to pursue external funds for both mechanistic and translational studies in cancer prevention and treatment.


Graduate and Professional Research Grant Program

Title: Immigrant Healthy Gut Project: Characterization of the obesogenic gut microbiome among Hmong and Karen Immigrants

Student Investigator: Pajau Vangay, Biomedical Informatics and Computational Biology, Ph.D Program (2013 - 2017), Computer Science and Engineering Department, College of Science and Engineering

Advisor(s): Dan Knights, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering and the Biotechnology Institute, College of Science and Engineering, U of M

Amount Awarded: $9,926

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: Immigrants in the US, such as the Somali in Minnesota, are developing chronic “new world” diseases such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease at alarming rates. Recent studies indicate that the trillions of bacteria living in the intestines, known as the gut microbiome, play an important role in many of these “new world” diseases, including potential causal roles in obesity. An individual’s resident gut microbes are partly dependent on dietary and environmental exposures, and yet can also be a causal factor in disease. A drastic and permanent change in dietary and environmental exposures, characteristic of immigration, could lead to disruption of gut homeostasis. This project will test the hypotheses that immigration from developing countries to the US induces loss of important microbial members in the native gut microbiome, predisposing the host to obesity, and that increasing dietary fiber intake supports maintenance of the native microbiome. Our study analyzes bacterial taxonomic marker genes from stool samples in 80 Somali women stratified by body mass index and years spent in the US. We will also evaluate the effect of increased dietary fiber consumption in reversing the effects of dietary changes and through changes in microbial composition and metabolite profiles in the gut microbiome. Our collaboration with the Somali, Latino and Hmong (SoLaHmo) Partnership for Health and Wellness at West Side Community Health Services provides an unparalleled opportunity to partner and conduct multi-community research with the Somali communities in Minnesota. We expect the results from this study to provide novel insights into how the gut microbiome and host metabolism change after immigration, determine whether dietary fiber consumption can minimize these changes, and lay the groundwork for future therapeutics and community dietary practice interventions to prevent obesity in immigrant and refugee populations.


Community-University Partnership Planning Grant Program

Title: Ninandawaabandaamin (We are searching for it)

Community PI(s): Nicole Buckanaga, Ojibwe Language Coordinator, Gaa’Oziskwaajimekaag Gabe Gikendaasoowigamig, Leech Lake Tribal College (LLTC)

University PI(s): Noelle Harden, Extension Educator, Health and Nutrition, UM Extension Regional Office Moorhead, MN

Amount Awarded: $8,350

Length of Project: 6 Months

Abstract: The purpose of this project is to bring together through an immersive and participatory process a team of Leech Lake (LL) Community members, Leech Lake Tribal College (LLTC) staff, University of Minnesota Extension (Extension) faculty, and one UMD student to accomplish two objectives: 1. Create a model berry module for an Ojibwe-based food literacy curriculum by gathering, preparing, and cooking meals together, and co-generating critical knowledge and skills. 2. Establish a grounded process to continue collaborating to build the Ojibwe-based food literacy curriculum through an immersive in a manner that embraces the Ojibwe world view through an Ojibwe-based research paradigm with cultural methodologies and tribal ownership.

Title: The Stormwater Runoff and Land Access Nexus: Using Environmental Sustainability to Enhance Food Security in the Urban Environment

Community PI(s): Dylan Bradford-Kesti, Program Organizer to Community Based Food Systems, Land Stewardship Project (LSP), Sam Grant, founder and Executive Director, AfroEco, Peggy Knapp, Director of Programs, Freshwater Society, Betsy Sohn, Organizer and Program Manager, Hope Community Inc., Terry VanDerPol, Community Based Food Systems Program Director, LSP

University PI(s): Nick Jordan, PhD, Professor, Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, U of M, Kate Flick, PhD student, Natural Resource Science and Management Graduate Program, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, U of M

Amount Awarded: $9,664

Length of Project: 6 Months

Abstract: Land Stewardship Project (LSP), with Afro-Eco (AE) and University of MN partners (UMN) are utilizing participatory action research to reframe municipal level food policy around urban agriculture to increase access to land to address food security through establishing best stewardship practices as best management practices for urban agriculture and stormwater. This is the planning phase of a research project that will work toward reframing city level food policy into a policy that is ecologically sound and grounded in racial equity. Current struggles for food access and food security match the overwhelming underutilization of public and private land in the urban setting. We are using a Food Policy approach to address food access impact on health. The goal of this project is planning with community and UMN university partners to apply for future support for Phase Two and Three of our multi-year project. Land Stewardship Project (LSP), AfroEco (AE), Hope Community Inc. (Hope), and UMN faculty (Nick Jordon) are working in partnership on a three phase multi-year project to reframe municipal level food policy into a policy that is ecologically sound and grounded in racial equity. LSP and our partners see an opportunity to increase access to land and good food in Minneapolis while improving water quality through healthier soils and stormwater runoff mitigation.

 

Title: Project Sweetie Pie - Camden Greenhouse Planning Project

Community PI(s): Michael Chaney, Community Activist and Organizer, Project Sweetie Pie; Catherine Fleming, Treasurer, Project Sweetie Pie; Ian Marvy, Co-founder and Executive Director, Added Value

University PI(s): Jeff Corn, MA, Community Programs Coordinator, Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA), Office of Public Engagement & Office for Academic Affairs and Provost; Catherine Jordan, PhD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health, Department of Pediatrics, Medical School; Extension Specialist, Center for Community Vitality, U of M Extension; Karl Hakanson, Local Extension Educator, Agricultural Production Systems, U of M Extension – Hennepin County

Amount Awarded: $10,000

Length of Project: 6 Months

Abstract: This planning grant focuses on the Project Sweetie Pie - Camden Greenhouse, which supports the overarching vision of creating an urban agricultural campus in North Minneapolis. The HFHL funds will support a unique multidisciplinary and multisectoral working partnership. The gardens and greenhouse space will provide community youth and adults with skills to produce microgreens, mushrooms, compost, hydroponics, aqua/aeroponics, vertical gardening and other dense urban food crops. Trainings will provide skills to create small businesses, providing employment and increased income for the neighborhood’s adult and youth population, including ex-offenders, women getting off of welfare, and youth without high school diplomas. The campus will offer a year-round food hub for the community to gather and be fed in body, mind, and soul and be a cornerstone of the food system in north Minneapolis. This planning grant will support work from Summer 2015 to January 2016 and will address three goals: 1. Community engagement of stakeholders including potential users in assessing needs and priorities for the greenhouse project as related to the overall vision. 2. Research into relevant precedents and examples of regional and national greenhouse and garden projects. 3. Outlining of the research, work and outcomes of the implementation phase of the design phase.

 

2014 Grantees

Community-University Partnership Grant Program

Title: Expanding and sharing a program to ready small, diverse and immigrant fruit and vegetable farmers for sales to Minneapolis Public Schools and other institutional markets

Community PI: Andrea Northup, Farm to School Coordinator, Minneapolis Public Schools, Culinary & Nutrition Services Department

University PI: Annalisa Hultberg (MS), Research Fellow, Bioproducts & Biosystems Engineering Department

Amount Awarded: $47,784.00

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: This community-university collaboration will expand and share the innovative Minneapolis Public School (MPS) Farm to School procurement and education program. Year 1 of this project made it possible for MPS to purchase over 29,000 pounds of produce from local sustainable farmers in the fall of 2014, an increase of over 40% from the fall of 2013. With the support of HFHL, in the fall 2015, MPS will support even more farmers – buying approximately 45,000 lbs. of local produce from small, local farmers, increasing the amount of sustainably-grown, fresh, local produce that 24,000 Minneapolis school children eat each day in their school meals on the salad bars, in entrees, and in side dishes. The next phase of the project will build on the model created in Year 1 to provide important and needed continuing food safety education with a focus on immigrant farmers and farmer cooperatives, buy additional produce quantities/varieties, and create a Toolkit to share the lessons-learned so that other school districts and institutions can implement a similar program of farmer education, increasing the supply of fresh, local, safe produce and improving the health of consumers across the region.

Title: Developing a Bi-cultural and Bi-lingual Beekeeping Training Curriculum for Hmong Mixed Fruits and Vegetable Growers

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

University PI: Marla Spivak, McKnight Professor in Entomology, Director, U of M Bee Lab

Amount Awarded: $49,733.90

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: This project seeks to unite the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA), a membership and community-based, social justice nonprofit, and the renowned Bee Lab at the University of Minnesota in an innovative research project that will develop a bi-cultural and bi-lingual beekeeping training curriculum for Hmong vegetable and fruit growers; train a new cohort of young, bi-lingual Hmong trainers in beekeeping; and teach beekeeping to and pilot the start of at least 10 hives for a cohort of Hmong full-time farmers, many of whom are older and immigrants.  In the past couple of years, the capacity of the staff and community supporters of the Bee Lab have been overwhelmed with the increasing interest in beekeeping. Unfortunately they have not had the capacity or the cultural expertise and networks to reach out to and support the large, immigrant farming community in Minnesota, many of whom are fruit and vegetable growers. This project will be beneficial to both the academic and the Hmong farming communities because it will create a first-of-its-kind curriculum intended for non-English speaking farmers; it will develop a first-of-its-kind cohort of young, bright, bi-lingual and bi-cultural trainers well versed in beekeeping who can teach English speaking learners as well as Hmong speaking learners in Minnesota or across the country; and lastly, it will teach beekeeping to at least 10 fulltime Hmong farmers who can use the knowledge to grow more produce, add bee-related value-added products to their operations, and support a healthier ecosystem on their farms. This project will span two years and incorporate both field and classroom components. In the first year, HAFA staff will be trained by Bee Lab experts and will experiment with keeping some hives on the HAFA Farm, a 155-acre research and incubator fruit and vegetable farm in Dakota County. The first draft of the training curriculum will be developed by the end of the first year and tested and refined in the second year with the training of new trainers and the teaching of the curriculum to older, Hmong fulltime farmers. In the second year, the project will also involve at least 10 Hmong farmers keeping their own hives and experimenting with value-added bee-related products such as honey, beeswax and mead. By the end of the second year, the training curriculum and a train-the-trainer manual will be finalized and made available through the Bee Lab and HAFA’s extensive networks to Hmong farmers in Minnesota and across the country.

Title: Abolishing Food Deserts for People and Pollinators: The Community Apiary Project

Community PI: Mark-Peter Lundquist, Vice-President of Outreach, Urban Ventures

University PI: Rebecca Masterman, Associate Program Director, U of M Bee Lab - Bee Squad

Amount Awarded: $49,074.66

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: Pollinators and the Phillips neighborhood in South Minneapolis share a single, solvable problem: insufficient access to nutritious food. For people, this means hunger, obesity, and diabetes, among other health problems. For pollinators, this means weaker immune systems, and a lower threshold for pathogens and diseases. We are proposing a system whereby these two communities--people and pollinators—help each other to abolish “food deserts.” Urban Ventures, already a leader in promoting food justice in South Minneapolis communities, and the UMN Bee Lab, an international leader in native and honey bee research, will come together with one main goal: to create a thriving and mutually beneficial green space for people and pollinators. This partnership, called the The Community Apiary Project, will train new leaders in the fields of sustainable urban food production and beekeeping, and continue research in and outreach for pollinator health through collaborative, citizen-science projects and public events. There is currently no beekeeping training program in the Twin Cities accessible to low-income people. Drawing on Urban Ventures’ successful initiatives for fighting hunger and malnutrition in South Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota’s expertise in beekeeping and pest management, we will build an accessible beekeeping and greenhouse-management training program. By setting up a long-term apiary and equipment for honey extraction, and by increasing Urban Ventures’ capacity for food production, we will give Phillips neighborhood community members the tools they need to obtain and sustain jobs in honey and food production, so that they can create positive changes in the health of their families and communities. This project is designed with a comprehensive public/ community component for people of all ages to learn how pollinators affect food. Programming will include talks, classes, bee safaris, seed planting and honey extracting events.


University Faculty Research Grant Program

Title: A chemical approach to the detection of bacterial food pathogens

PI(s): Valerie C. Pierre, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, College of Science and Engineering, U of M

Co-Investigator(s): Srinand Sreevatsan, PhD, Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, U of M; Francisco DiezGonzalez, PhD, Professor of Food Safety Microbiology and FScN Department Head, Food Science and Nutrition, College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences, U of M

Amount Awarded: $50,000

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: Contamination by bacterial pathogens such as Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica are increasingly problematic in our complex and global food production and distribution networks. Given the near impossibility of completely removing the sources and causes of these bacterial contaminations in our food supply, the eradication of outbreaks of diarrheal and other foodbased diseases increasingly necessitates new tools to rapidly and easily assess contamination of our food supply before they reach consumers. Our long-term goal is to develop a simple and low-cost technology, operational in any field setting, which enables immediate detection and differentiation of bacteria. This goal will be met by developing chemical probes that (1) make use of bacteria-specific biomarkers of virulence and infectious state, (2) give immediate read-out with portable instruments such as hand-held UV lamp, and (3) are easy to scale up and are storable at room temperature. The central hypothesis is that these three requirements can be met with the use of luminescent probes that make use of bacterial siderophores, the small iron chelators excreted in large quantity by bacteria to sequester and uptake iron from the environment, as Trojan horses. The overall objective of this application is to develop sensitive and selective chemical probes that use the siderophores produced by Salmonella and Escherichia coli as Trojan horses and which become luminescent once uptaken by the bacteria. To test the central hypothesis, the following specific aims will be pursued: synthesize and evaluate responsive luminescent probes incorporating 1) enterobactin, 2) salmochelin, and 3) aerobactin, the siderophores produced by Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica. This approach is innovative because it uses chemical probes to diagnose bacteria. The proposed research is significant because it is expected to result in field-appropriate tools for the immediate detection of bacterial contamination of our food supply.

Title: Reducing Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Portion Size Through a Pricing Intervention

PI(s): Sarah E. Gollust, PhD, Assistant Professor, Division of Health Policy and Management, School of Public Health, U of M

Co-Investigator(s): Simone French, PhD, Professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, U of M; Alexander Rothman, PhD, Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Programs, Department of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts, U of M; Ford Runge, PhD, Professor, Department of Applied Economics, College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences, U of M

Amount Awarded: $23,408

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: Reducing young adults’ consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) is an important public health priority, yet finding an effective and politically acceptable policy intervention has proven challenging. One possible avenue for intervention is changing the pricing structure of fountain-style beverages (a primary source of SSBs). Food retail settings use a value pricing model in which larger sized beverages are priced to be a better value than smaller sized beverages. Modifying the pricing model so that larger beverages are not a better value may be a promising way to reduce the consumption of SSBs. In order to understand the effectiveness and potential political feasibility of modifying this structure, we propose three study aims: (1) to implement a laboratory-based experiment to examine how removing value-sized pricing incentives affects students’ choice of beverages; (2) to evaluate students’ perceptions of beverage sizes and prices in University retail settings; and (3) to create a partnership with university officials to develop a field-based intervention designed based on the results obtained from aims 1 and 2. We intend to use funding from the Obesity Prevention Center to conduct the field-based intervention. This project has a high potential for shaping organizational change, as institutions – including universities and other employers – have been seeking new ways to incorporate healthy beverage policies. This research also contributes to our interdisciplinary research team’s long-term research goals to understand the many mechanisms through which SSB-targeted interventions (including the framing of these policies in public discourse) shapes individuals’ and populations’ behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, and norms with regard to sugar-sweetened drinks.


University Faculty Planning Grant Program

Title: Air pollution exposure–induced neuroinflammation and obesity

University Faculty Team:

  • Tammy A. Butterick, PhD Research Service, VA Health Care System; Adjunct Assistant Professor Department of Food Science and Nutrition
  • Tiffany Beckman, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism Department of Medicine, Medical School
  • Charles Billington (MD), Professor of Medicine, Medical School, Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism; Co-Director, Minnesota Obesity Center
  • Joshua Nixon, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor Department of Food Science and Nutrition, CFANS
  • William Northrop, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, College of Science and Engineering (CSE)
  • Jacob Swanson, PhD, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, College of Science and Engineering (CSE)

Amount Awarded: $10,000

Length of Project: 6 Months

Focus of the Project: The underlying health problem addressed in this study is the link between air pollution and obesity. Healthy lives and weights derive from effective management of response to the modern rich food environment. The brain is responsible for integrating and controlling response to these cues, but there are many environmental challenges to that brain management. Environmental air pollution such as that generated by diesel exhaust (DE) is a continuing concern worldwide. Most studies of air pollution and health focus on cardiovascular, respiratory, endocrine, and cancer effects of inhaled particles. Epidemiological data, and a few human and animal studies, have suggested a link between air pollution and obesity. While underlying mechanisms between air pollution and obesity remain undefined, recent studies show that pollution effects on brain regions controlling central energy balance contribute to obesity. It is known that pollution can directly and adversely affect brain health. The particulate matter (PM) component of DE, more specifically metal nanoparticles (NP) contained within the PM, can cause deleterious immune responses in neural tissue (neuroinflammation). The size range (1-20 nm diameter) of NP allow these compounds to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and cause neuroinflammation, a condition associated with obesity. This study will employ a series of experiments to test whether NP exposure and subsequent neuroinflammation contribute to obesity.


Graduate and Professional Research Grant Program

Title: Can an underutilized “miracle” tree improve the iron status of Ugandan children?

PI (Student Investigator): Kristina DeMuth, R.D., Masters of Public Health Nutrition, School of Public Health

Advisor(s): Sarah Cusick, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Global Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine

Amount Awarded: $8,300

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide, affecting nearly 2 billion people. In Uganda alone it is estimated that 50% of children under 5 years old are iron-deficient. Since iron is critical for brain growth and development, iron deficiency in early childhood can result in lifelong consequences. A tree grown worldwide called the Moringa tree holds vast potential for being a vital, life saving resource for children in Uganda and around the world. It is a fast growing, drought-resistant tree that bares edible, iron-rich leaves. Although the nutritional and medicinal properties of Moringa are widely recognized, its use, particularly among children, has not been studied systematically. Qualitative research with parents and caregivers in Uganda is a necessary first step to understand how the leaves are currently being used for children. This knowledge can then be translated to inform further interdisciplinary research and programming among experts in forestry, food science, pediatric nutrition, and medicinal physiology. In this study, we will conduct focus groups and individual interviews with Ugandan parents to assess current practices and attitudes about using Moringa for children. The second piece of our study will be to both determine common iron consumption among Ugandan children, using preexisting dietary records of young children currently enrolled in a University of Minnesota research study, and also to estimate how much more iron could be added to this consumption with Moringa. The qualitative information obtained in the study will be used to guide the forestry and food scientists in development of Moringa forests and food products containing Moringa leaves. The quantitative research will provide guidance to the pediatric team about the acceptance, uses, and quantity of Moringa leaves needed for treatment of iron deficiency among the children in their clinics.

Title: Brain immune cell response to dietary saturated fatty acid

PI (Student Investigator): Cayla Duffy, Masters of Science, Nutrition, Food Science and Nutrition, College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences

Advisor(s): Tammy Butterick, Ph.D., Adjunct Assistant Professor, Food Science and Nutrition, College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences

Amount Awarded: $10,000

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: Obesity is a complex disease with multiple health implications and affects more than one third of adults and children in the U. S. Excess dietary saturated fatty acids (SFA) can alter metabolic homeostasis and impair normal central nervous system (CNS) function, contributing to the development of obesity. The SFA palmitic acid (PA) induces inflammation in the CNS and hypothalamus through activation of microglia, the immune cells of the brain. Orexin A (OXA), a hypothalamic signaling molecule involved in regulating energy metabolism, can reduce CNS inflammation through a microglial mediated pathway in rodent models of brain injury. Preliminary data indicates that 24 h PA exposure increases NFκB, a key regulator in microglial inflammatory response. Following 4 h PA exposure, microglia increase gene expression of OXA receptor (binding site for initiating communication in a cell), suggesting OXA is involved in response to inflammatory stimuli. These data suggest OXA is a potential mediator of diet-induced microglial activation. Microglia shift between toxic and protective states. We hypothesize that PA induces pro-inflammatory microglial activation, and OXA can reduce the pro-inflammatory phenotype by reverting to an anti-inflammatory/protective state. The research outlined in this proposal will use an in vitro microglial cell line to determine if 1) OXA can reduce PA-induced secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines through an NFκB-mediated pathway, and 2) if OXA can revert pro-inflammatory microglial activation to a protective state. Cells will be exposed to OXA and/or PA for various time intervals, and cell lysates and media will be collected for analysis. Changes in selected cytokines, NFκB, and an array of known inflammatory response genes will be used to determine OXA mediated responses. Findings from these experiments will provide novel insight to the pathology of obesity, the mechanisms underlying diet-induced neuroinflammation, and will aid in developing therapeutic treatments against obesity.


Community-University Partnership Planning Grant Program

Title: American Indian Cancer Foundation (AICF) and the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change (ICGC) [and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs] HFHL Planning Grant Program Proposal for Community-University Partnerships

Community PI(s): Kristine Rhodes, MPH, Executive Director, AICF

University PI(s): Karen Brown, Ph.D, Director of the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change (ICGC), U of M Global Programs and Strategy (GPS) Alliance; David Wilsey, Ph.D, Coordinator, U of M Master of Development Practice (MDP) program, Global Policy, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Amount Awarded: $9,836

Length of Project: 6 Months

Focus of the Project: Rates of heart disease and diabetes vary widely among Native communities though, generally, rates for American Indians in the Great Lakes region are relatively high compared with other Native American communities. Minnesota Native Americans suffer five times the rate of diabetes-­related death of their white peers and almost twice the rate of African Americans. The impact of these diseases on community health cannot be overstated and extends beyond public health. Food is at the center of this discussion and identifying barriers to healthy eating is essential for developing successful interventions to confront these challenges to public health, to the environment, and to the communities’ social and economic systems. Notable work has been done in these areas and some excellent early lessons suggest directions for future efforts and best practices. Strong and effective partnerships between communities, food system actors, and researchers represent one essential element, and require investment in the building and maintenance of relationships. The practical objective of this initiative is development of strong partnerships able to support a food system project that has roots in a number of recent and related endeavors. In effect, the planning grant will support an extended period of consultation among project partners and community participants to develop the actual contours of a longer-­term project.

Title: The Midway Nest

Community PI(s): Kate Mudge, Hamline-Midway resident; Kim K. McKeage, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Hamline School of Business, Hamline University

University PI(s): Courtney Tchida, Student Programs Coordinator, Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, MISA, CFANS, U of M; Valentine Cadieux, Ph.D., Research Associate, Departments of Sociology and Geography, Environment and Society (CLA), U of M

Amount Awarded: $9,695

Length of Project: 6 Months

Focus of the Project: The Hamline Midway Local Food envisions a community-centered space, located in the growing Hamline-Midway neighborhood of St. Paul, where the intersection of healthy foods and sustainable enterprise meet. We call this space the “Midway Nest”- a local foods business where residents may gather to enjoy a meal at the storefront bakery/café, to collect and distribute local CSA produce, and afford start-up food entrepreneurs an area in which to craft and market their ideas. We also envision a community meal center, which unites residents regardless of their income, race, or age to share and explore our neighborhood foodways. Many needs have been identified by community members in recent years: an incubator kitchen, a storefront for food products, a tool lending library, artist studio space, and a greenhouse for extending seasons for local gardeners and food producers. The HFHL Planning Grant will enable us to refine our understanding of our community’s needs and make this vision a reality. 

2013 Grantees

Community-University Partnership Grant Program

Title: Evaluating Food Safety and Health Impacts of an Alternative Poultry Production Model

Community PI: Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, Chief Operating Officer Main Street Project

University PI: Greg Schweser, Associate Program Director - Sustainable Local Foods, UMN Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships

Amount Awarded: $48,795

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: The University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships -- a University of Minnesota Extension program -- will partner with Main Street Project -- a sustainable food and agriculture nonprofit organization in Northfield, Minnesota -- to research and verify food safety and nutritional health aspects of an innovative poultry production system that is accessible to low-income and beginning farmers at various scales (as a side-business or a full family operation). This production method is designed to produce a natural poultry product using the Label Rouge bird made popular by pastured poultry enthusiasts in France; incorporates an alternative feeding system of forages and sprouted grain on small plots; aims to improve soil health for crops by incorporating poultry and perennials in the same system; utilizes polycultures to naturally control pests and reduce the need for chemical pesticides and fertilizers; and increases long-term overall production potential by stacking agricultural enterprises on the same land including perennial fruit and nut crops. This model was developed by Main Street Project to create an avenue into agricultural entrepreneurship for low-income immigrants via high quality, sustainable agricultural production for local food markets and values-based consumers. This production model has an opportunity to be adopted by many farmers looking for sustainable alternative production methods but must first be shown to produce products that are safe for human consumption via sufficient nutrient management and appropriate harvesting techniques.

Title: Building Capacity for Small, Immigrant and Minority Farmers to Participate in Institutional and Wholesale Produce Markets in Minnesota

Community PI: Andrea Northup, Farm to School Coordinator, Minneapolis Public Schools, Culinary & Nutrition Services Department

University PI: Annalisa Hultberg (MS), Research Fellow, Bioproducts & Biosystems Engineering Department

Amount Awarded: $49,675

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: The proposed project is a partnership between Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) Culinary & Nutrition Services and the University of Minnesota’s On-Farm Food Safety program to expand the procurement of fresh produce from small, beginning, immigrant and/or minority farmers in the region for Minneapolis students in school meals. MPS recently completed its pilot season of procuring produce directly from local small, beginning, immigrant and/or minority farmers. The initial experience indicated that most of these farmers were not prepared to sell to a large institutional buyer such as MPS. They lacked knowledge of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and on-farm food safety standards, how to meet product and packaging specifications, and customer service skills, among other areas. The proposed project will enhance these farmers’ capacity to meet MPS and other institutional buyer requirements via a series of engagements between MPS Culinary & Nutrition Services staff, University of Minnesota and farmers. The project will include facilitated conversations, workshops, one-on-one technical support, and ongoing assistance for farmers. The project will allow these farmers who otherwise may be shut out of the institutional marketplace due to lack of food safety expertise, awareness of customer service norms, or knowledge of wholesale packing standards, to enter booming institutional markets looking to purchase more local foods, such as MPS or other wholesale produce distributors or institutional buyers. The proposed project would also provide a forum for connecting farmer partners directly with Minneapolis Public School students and classrooms to deepen students’ understanding of where food comes from, and add meaning and value to institutional school sales for farmers. The outcomes of the project will be more safe, healthful, local food served in MPS meals; increased economic security and produce sales for regional farmers; increased purchases by wholesale buyers from small, beginning, immigrant and/or minority farmers in the region; and heightened sense of connection to farmers and where food comes from among consumers, particularly students at MPS.

Title: Integrated Fish, Plant and Algal Production System: Growing Vertical

Community PI: Lana Fralich, Silver Bay, MN City Administrator

University PI: Michael T. Mageau, Director, Center for Sustainable Community Development (CSCD), Director, Environment and Sustainability Program

Amount Awarded: $25,000

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: For the past five years UMD’s CSCD and the City of Silver Bay have worked together to launch an integrated fish, produce, and algal closed-loop food production system today known as “Victus Farms” (www.victusfarms.org). This project focused on proving a system that can produce food and biofuel, create jobs, expand educational research, and demonstrate economic viability. The ultimate goal is for this project to expand into the private markets where communities will benefit from a tax base and jobs and the university system will enhance their research and education curriculum. After the first year of startup, this project holds true to that concept. We are currently working on a commercial scale facility with interested private parties; however, vertical systems are the focus of many investors we are working with. A vertical closed-loop system has not been proven in comparison to our current closed-loop “raft” system. Therefore, we plan to use the HFHL fund to integrate a new “vertical” system into our existing “raft” system to determine the most viable and economical operation (i.e: an entire “raft closed-loop system”, or an entire “vertical closed-loop system, or a facility that has a combination of both). Vertical column construction will take place in January, and the six-week experiments will begin in February of 2014, and be repeated quarterly. Finally, economic impacts will be calculated in November/December of 2014. We will then integrate the technical knowledge, economic performance and project development information into our existing commercial business plans for those academic peers, businesses and communities interested in expanding and/or duplicating methods to help launch similar projects, starting with those businesses and communities who are already seeking a similar project

Title: A University-Community Partnership to Sustainably Improve Food Safety and Security in Uganda

Community Partners: Andrew Tamale Coordinator, One Health Residency COVAB, Makerere University, Uganda; Samuel Majalija, Associate Professor, Focal Person, OHCEA, COVAB, Makerere University, Uganda ;Francis Ejobi, Chair, Department of Biosecurity, Ecosystems and Veterinary Public Health COVAB, Makerere University, Uganda; Lawrence Mugisha, Director, Conservation & Ecosystem Health Alliance Hoima District, Uganda 

University Partners: Katey Pelican, Assistant Professor, Veterinary Preventative Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, U of M; Cheryl Robertson, Associate Professor, School of Nursing, U of M; Fred Rose, Acara Director, Institute on the Environment, U of M; MacDonald Farnham, Assistant Professor, Veterinary Preventative Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, U of M; Innocent Rwego (in Uganda), Assistant Professor, Veterinary Preventative Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, U of MShaun Kennedy, Associate Professor, Veterinary Preventative Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, U of M

Amount Awarded: $25,000

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: Food security and safety in Africa is in a period of dramatic change. In Uganda, urbanization, population growth and the resulting growth in the economic sector is driving the emergence of a middle class that is enjoying unprecedented access to safe food. However, these changes are not reaching rural communities in Uganda where unsafe and insufficient food are common challenges. In the United States, land grant universities, like the University of Minnesota have driven change in rural communities through an integration of innovation, education and outreach particularly in the technology and agricultural sectors. In Africa, universities are poised to drive a similar innovation revolution for rural communities. To drive this change, the University of Minnesota is already partnering with Makerere University, the non-profit Conservation & Ecosystem Health Alliance and the communities of Hoima and Kasese Districts to establish a One Health Demonstration Site to integrate research, education and outreach and address challenges at the intersection of animals, humans and the environment. We propose to build on this Demonstration Site partnership to create an “Innovation Collaborative” that will partner communities in need with teams of students, community leaders, faculty, local government and private sector partners to identify food-related challenges and develop and seed social business ventures to address those needs. Ultimately, this partnership will result in better trained and more relevant student graduates, a university more relevant to the challenges facing the region and, most importantly, a community with improved health and food security achieved by community-driven innovation and growth in the private sector.


University Faculty Research Grant Program

Title: Measuring Nutrition Quality in the Emergency Food System

PI(s): Marilyn S. Nanney, Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, Program in Health Disparities Research, Medical School, University of Minnesota; Robert P. King, Professor, Department of Applied Economics, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, University of Minnesota

Co-Investigator(s): Susan Basil King, Consultant and Project Manager, Twin Cities Hunger Initiative; Lori Kratchmer, Executive Director, Emergency Foodshelf Network; Amy Maheswaran Lopez, Community Impact Manager, Greater Twin Cities United Way; Cathy Maes, Executive Director, Intercongregation Communities Association; Rob Zeaske, Executive Director, Second Harvest Heartland

Amount Awarded: $99,986

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: Ensuring that healthy foods are available shelf segment of the emergency food system is important for the families served because of the disparity in diet-related health outcomes experienced by this vulnerable population. In addition, there is a national movement to measure food shelf performance beyond the traditional "pounds of food" distributed and establish a metric for reporting the amount of healthy and local food distributed. One approach to address this practical need is the application of the USDA's Healthy Eating Index (HEI) to quantify the emergency food environment. The purpose of this project is to develop an automated HEI calculation tool that can be used to measure the nutritional quality of food shelf orders placed with food banks. A team of interdisciplinary Co-Principal Investigators (Drs. Nanney and King) along with the leaders in hunger relief, food access and food banking in Minnesota propose research aims that will (1) calculate the HEI for each order made by a randomly selected cohort of 100 food shelves over a nine month period; (2) identify relationships between food shelf characteristics and HEI measures; and (3) determine whether provision of HEI information to food shelves stimulates them to improve the HEI for their bulk purchases. This project takes a first and scalable step towards developing a metric that measures the variety and nutritional value of food purchased by food shelves. It is expected that the findings from this project will identify several meaningful avenues for future research including measuring the impact of healthier food availability upon the satisfaction, diet patterns and health of families served.

Title: Exploring playful, creative design as a means of increasing children’s vegetable consumption

PI(s): Zata Vickers, Professor, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, University of Minnesota
Barry Kudrowitz (project leader), Assistant Professor, Department of Design, Housing and Apparel, College of Design, University of Minnesota

Co-Investigator(s): Marla Reicks, Professor, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, University of Minnesota

Amount Awarded: $49,550

Length of Project: 2 Years

Abstract: This new collaboration between CFANS Department of Food Science and Nutrition and the CDES Product Design program to explore how playful design can be used to entice children to eat healthier, specifically consuming more vegetables in meals. In this study, playful design can refer to a novel preparation, presentation, or interaction with a vegetable. Recently Co-PI Kudrowitz has been working with local chefs on understanding creative design process in the food service industry and Vickers and Reicks have been exploring ways of enticing children to eat more vegetables. This project plans to encourage children to eat more vegetables by using evaluative conditioning (the pairing of vegetables with people and situations that the child likes) with the goal of transferring the liking of the situation to the liking of the food. Such transfer has been documented in past studies. The project combines researchers’ skills and research interests in an effort to improve eating behaviors of children to address the obesity epidemic, a problem of national importance. This project also provides the basis for preparing a grant proposal to continue our collaboration by further exploring the use of the processes found to be effective in this study in settings reaching a far greater number of children.


University Faculty Planning Grant Program

Title: Impact of Local and Organic Foods on Food Safety: Assessment of Supply Chain Controls and Value Outcomes for Quantitative-based Food Policies

PI(s): Matteo Convertino (School of Public Health, Division of Environmental Health Sciences); Marc F. Bellemare (Department of Applied Economics); Robert P. King (Department of Applied Economics) rancisco Diez-Gonzalez (Department of Food Science and Nutrition); Fernando Sanpedro (Veterinary Population Medicine and Center for Animal Health and Food Safety)

Amount Awarded: $10,000

Length of Project: 6 Months

Focus of the Project: Fresh produce contaminated with highly virulent Salmonella and E. coli strains has been identified as one of the leading cause of foodborne outbreaks in the US. In order to prevent these outbreaks, we need a better understanding of how  ocal supply chains lead to or prevent contamination with respect global supply chains for the same food commodities. This project involves applied economist, microbiologists/food safety, and public health/engineering experts working together to identify and  uantitatively assess microbiological and supply chain topology risk factors that are likely to impact on the food safety of fresh produce (with particular focus on pathogenic E. coli and Salmonella strains). A particular focus will be on the evaluation of local and organic food commodities with respect to the same commodities traded in the global food supply chain worldwide. Specifically, via a time series analysis we aim to disentangle local- and global-caused foodborne illness and what food-related and supply chain actors determined those illnesses. The project’s findings will help us develop effective control measures to reduce the number of foodborne illnesses and guide stakeholders toward a sustainable food system that consider also economical and health outcomes.

Title: Exploring the Impact of Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Policy on Individuals and Populations

PI(s): Sarah Gollust, PhD, Assistant Professor, Health Policy and Management, School of Public Health; Alexander Rothman, PhD, Professor of Psychology, Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts; Simone French, PhD, Professor in the Division of  epidemiology and Community Health, Director of the Obesity Prevention Center; Carlisle Ford Runge, PhD, Professor of Applied Economics and Law

Amount Awarded: $9,860

Length of Project: 6 months

Focus of the Project: One of the most pressing challenges in obesity prevention is reducing population consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), a well-known contributor to obesity and chronic illnesses. Policies that would reduce consumption have been met with political controversy, social resistance, and scientific scrutiny – posing barriers to their implementation and potential impact. Understanding and evaluating the impact of sugar-sweetened beverage policies requires an interdisciplinary  approach, including experts in public health nutrition, health policy, politics, psychology, and economics. In particular, the goal of our working group is to develop an interdisciplinary understanding of the many direct and indirect mechanisms through which policies targeting SSB consumption will influence individuals’ and populations’ attitudes, norms, and behaviors.


Graduate and Professional Research Grant Program

Title: Effect of Acculturation on Health: A Case Study of International Students

PI(s): Bhagyashree Katare, Applied Economics Doctoral Student, CFANS

Advisor(s): Timothy Beatty, Associate Professor, Applied Economics

Amount Awarded: $6,800

Length of Project: 1 Year

Focus of the Project: In this study researchers will survey international graduate students studying at public universities in the 48 contiguous states to understand the effect of acculturation on the change in their dietary pattern and on their health. This research will answer two questions: (1) Does the effect of acculturation on the health of international students vary in the United States (2) Does acculturation – both social and geographical – play a role in spreading obesity (and overweight) among international students?

Title: Familial Consequences of an Intervention to Increase Vegetable Intake among Young Children

PI(s): Tashara Marie Leak, Food Science & Nutrition Doctoral Student, CFANS 

Advisor(s): Marla Reicks, Professor, Food Science and Nutrition, CFANS

Amount Awarded: $5,500

Length of Project: 1 Year

Focus of the Project:  In this study researchers will determine whether in-home behavioral economic strategies developed and implemented for 9 to 12 year old children would also increase vegetable intake among their adolescent (13 to 18 year old) siblings.  Additionally, the PI will focus on better understanding how the presence of an adolescent in the home can influence the implementation of those behavioral economic strategies. By better understanding the role the adolescent plays during mealtime, the strategies can be revised to be more appropriate for households that contain both preadolescent and adolescent children.   

Title: Considering Health and Nutrition in Agricultural Production Decisions: Evidence from Tanzania

PI(s): Helen Markelova, Applied Economics Doctoral Student, CFANS; Martha Rogers, Applied Economics Doctoral Student, CFANS 

Advisor(s): Marc Bellemare, Assistant Professor, Applied Economics, CFANS

Amount Awarded: $7,913

Length of Project: 1 Year

Focus of the Project:  Researchers will investigate the extent to which agricultural households in Tanzania consider household nutritional demands when choosing what crops to produce. In developing countries, rural households may face challenges in accessing or purchasing food on the local markets and may choose to overcome these market failures by producing crops needed for home consumption. Investigators will look at whether households forgo a market-oriented agricultural production portfolio for a nutrition-based agricultural production portfolio that is aimed at meeting household nutritional demands. Research findings will have important implications for agricultural programs in developing countries that aim to increase household incomes through cash crop production but do not consider the impact of these programs on household health and nutrition.  

Title: Inducing Positive Emotional Associations with Novel Foods: Making ‘Comfort Foods’ Out of Healthy Foods

PI(s): Katie E. Osdoba, Food Science and Nutrition Doctoral Student, CFANS

Advisor(s): Zata Vickers, Professor, Food Science and Nutrition, CFANS

Amount Awarded: $10,000

Length of Project: 1 Year

Focus of the Project:  The relationships between food and emotions are complex, and a better understanding of them could hold significance for promotion of mental and physical health. People generally have a positive emotional response to food, but it is unclear why. One theory is that prior associations with a food elicit these responses. The research conducted in this study will determine if positive emotional associations can be induced to a novel food. This research will also explore whether calorie density affects these associations, and if liking increases after these associations are made.


Community-University Partnership Planning Grant Program

Title: Achieving Healthy and Affordable Food Access in the Era of Climate Change

Community PI(s): Shalini Gupta, Executive Director, Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy; Deborah Ramos, Director, Zenteotl Project

University PI(s): Neeraj Mehta, Director of Community Based Research, Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, University of Minnesota

Amount Awarded: $10,000

Length of Project: 6 Months

Focus of the Project: The health issue this project will address is the impact a changing climate will have on affordable and healthy food access for low-income and communities of color in the Twin Cities. The partners will work to develop a proposal that focuses on the HFHL priority area of Food Policy, integrating the issues of urban agriculture, cultural knowledge, and health. The key question this team will be investigating is: In the context of climate change, how can racial, low‐income and cultural community food needs be best integrated into Minneapolis food planning efforts?

Title: Development of a Community-University partnership to address school-based nutrition programs

Community PI(s): Teresa Ambroz, MPH, RD, LD, Health and Wellness Manager, Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation; Laura Perdue, MPH, RD, Health Promotion Specialist, Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation; Pamela Mink, PhD, MPH, Senior Research Scientist, Division of Applied Research, Allina Health

University PI(s): Jamie Stang, PhD, MPH, RD, Associate Professor, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota

Amount Awarded: $9,000

Length of Project: 6 Months

Focus of the Project: This project aims to develop a research partnership between the University of Minnesota and the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation (MHIF) to plan the assessment of a school-based nutrition initiative titled Food Explorers. This partnership will develop a strategy, in collaboration with local school districts, Allina Health and Bloomington Public Health, to assess the efficacy of the Food Explorers program and potential opportunities for improvement. Collaboration between researchers at the University of Minnesota, community educators at MHIF, school administrators and city public health professionals will enhance the process of planning this research.

Title: Development of a Community-University partnership to provide locally sourced foods from Hmong immigrant farmers as healthier menu options for patients in the University of Minnesota’s Fairview Medical Center

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

University PI(s): Michele Schermann, Agriculture Health and Safety Research Fellow, Bioproducts & Biosystems Engineering, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS), University of Minnesota; Mee Ching, Graduate Student in the Public Health Administration and Policy Program, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota

Amount Awarded: $10,000

Length of Project: 6 Months

Focus of the Project: This project will explore the feasibility of a working relationship among Hmong farmers in the Twin Cities, faculty members at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health and procurement staff at the University of Minnesota’s Medical Center Fairview (Medical Center). The purpose of the long term project would be to help the Medical Center design and provide healthier menu items for its patients in hopes of producing healthy eating habits, reducing diet related diseases and decreasing obesity. The long term project would examine if those goals can be achieved by buying locally sourced, fresh vegetables from well-trained, but low income, small scale immigrant farmers with farm plots in the metropolitan areas. However, in order to ensure the best chances for the long term project’s success, this team will begin working and testing the feasibility of a working relationship among all the players.

2012 Grantees

Community-University Partnership Grant Program

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 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

Length of Project: 1 Year

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

Length of Project: 1 Year

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

Length of Project: 1 Year

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

Length of Project: 2 Years

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 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

Length of Project: 2 Years

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.


University Faculty Research Grant Program

Title: Healthy Weight Management in Diverse Youth: A Health Care Home Approach

PI(s): Jerica M. Berge, PhD, Assistant Professor, Family Medicine and Community Health (Medical School); Dianne Neumark-Sztainer PhD, MPH, RD, Professor, Epidemiology and Community Health (School of Public Health)

Co-Investigator(s): Shailendra Prasad, MD, MPH, Associate Director, North Memorial Family Medicine Residency

Amount Awarded: $50,000

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: Obesity is one of the top public health concerns facing youth today, particularly youth from low income and ethnically and racially diverse populations. There is a need for novel approaches to help youth engage in healthier eating and physical activity behaviors. Parents need to be involved in interventions, given the importance of a supportive home environment. Furthermore, health care providers often report feeling frustrated in trying to address obesity thus, there is also a need to identify new approaches that will engage health care providers. The aim of the proposed study is to develop and test a novel paradigm for a family- based primary care approach to healthy weight management in underserved youth. The proposed intervention, Umatter (i.e., You matter), will be designed to enhance personal strengths of youth. The approach will strive to help young people feel good about themselves and their bodies so that they will avoid short-term dieting and, instead, will integrate healthy eating and physical activity behaviors into their lifestyles on a long-term basis. The study will be implemented at Broadway Family Medicine Clinic, a large primary care clinic in North Minneapolis, serving a diverse and underserved population. The intervention will be developed based upon input that has been collected from parents and youth from the local community and from clinic staff. Furthermore, the Clinic Advisory Board will be involved with program development and implementation in order to ensure that the program meets the community’s needs. Umatter will include a combination of group, individual, and family components. The intervention will be implemented with 25 youth participants (preadolescents and adolescents in separate groups) and their parents/guardians. This pilot study will provide the needed framework to guide an R01 to be submitted to the National Institutes of Health for a larger randomized, controlled trial.

Title: Effects of fermented wheat bran on gut microflora and implications for obesity

PI(s): Andrea Y. Arikawa, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, Food Science and Nutrition (CFANS)

Co-Investigator(s): Ryan Fink, PhD, Research Associate, Food Science and Nutrition (CFANS); Daniel Gallaher, PhD, Professor, Food Science and Nutrition (CFANS); Mirko Bunzel, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Food Chemistry and Phytochemistry, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

Amount Awarded: $93,939

Length of Project: 2 Years

Abstract: This proposal is intended to determine the effects of fermented wheat bran with ferulate release on the composition of the gut microflora and its relationship with obesity-related parameters in diet-induced obese rats. Animals will be fed a high-fat diet for 8 weeks followed by one of the following experimental diets for another 8 weeks: high-fat diet, low-fat diet, high-fat + unprocessed wheat bran, high-fat + fermented wheat bran without ferulate release, and high-fat + fermented wheat bran with ferulate release. Processed and unprocessed wheat bran will be supplied by Kampffmeyer Food Innovation GmbH (Germany) and added to the experimental diets at 15% (w/w). The idea behind processing wheat bran by enzymatic fermentation is to enhance the health benefits of wheat bran via release of ferulic acid, which is bound to the cell walls and is a potent antioxidant. Body weights and food intake will be measured periodically throughout the experiment. Following 16 weeks of dietary treatment, urine and feces will be collected and stored at -70°C. Blood will be collected by cardiac puncture and liver, fat pads, and the large intestine will be harvested and frozen in liquid nitrogen. In addition to determining the diversity and relative abundances of the gut microflora, we will identify microbial metabolites of ferulic acid in blood, urine and feces, and measure several markers associated with obesity including: liver lipids, plasma glucose, non-esterified fatty acids, insulin, PYY, fasting-induced adipocyte factor, bacterial lipopolysaccharide, C-reactive protein, and fecal energy content. Mean differences between diet groups for all outcome variables will be analyzed by one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) and we will also perform Pearson correlation analyses to assess correlations between variables. All p values will be adjusted for multiple comparisons and a p <0.05 will be considered statistically significant.

Title: Reduction in Colonic Cancer Stem Cell Formation by Cruciferous Vegetables in Mice

PI(s): Daniel D. Gallaher, PhD, Professor, Food Science and Nutrition (CFANS); Sabrina P. Trudo, PhD, Associate Professor, Food Science and Nutrition (CFANS)

Co-Investigator(s): Subbaya Subramanian, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery (Medical School)

Amount Awarded: $49,942

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States. Although the cause of cancer remains elusive, recent evidence suggests that many cancers are due to mutations in stem cells, forming transformed cells called cancer stem cells, whose uncontrolled proliferation results in tumor formation. We propose to examine the effect of consumption of cruciferous vegetables, putative chemopreventive foods, on the development of cancer stem cells in the colon and on the microRNA (miRNA) profile of colonic crypts in which cancer stem cells have accumulated. We will utilize a mouse model that employs cre-lox technology to incorporate (knockin) green fluorescent protein (GFP) as a marker in a manner that is specific for colonic stem cells. Using heterocyclic aromatic amines as the carcinogen, we will determine the ability of a diet containing cruciferous vegetables to reduce development of colonic cancer stem cells using confocal microscopy to quantitate GFP fluorescence in thick sections containing whole colonic crypts. In a second experiment using the same animal model and diets, we propose to collect colonic tissue in which cancer stem cells have accumulated using laser capture microdissection. This tissue will be compared to normal tissue for β-catenin concentration, whose accumulation is a marker of a dysregulated Wnt signaling pathway and is a common finding in colon cancer. Changes in the expression profile of miRNA will also be compared. Changes in the miRNA profile appear to play an important role in the development of many cancers and the regulation of cancer stem cells, but the study of dietary influences on miRNA is extremely limited to date. This proposal represents one of the first, if not the first, investigation of diet on the development of cancer stem cells, and therefore may open an entirely new approach to the study of diet and cancer.

2011 Grantees

Community-University Partnership Grant Program

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

Community PIs: Hli Xyooj, Staff Attorney, JD, MBA, Farmers' Legal Action Group, Inc. (FLAG); Ly Vang, Executive Director, Association for the Advancement of Hmong Women in Minnesota (AAHWM)

University PIs: Michele Schermann, RN, MS, Agricultural Health and Safety Research Fellow, UMN Bioproducts & Biosystems Engineering Department; Annalisa Hultberg, MS, Research Fellow, UMN Bioproducts & Biosystems Engineering Department

Amount Awarded: $49,991

Length of Project: 1 Year

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

Community PI: Faith Spotted Eagle, Brave Heart Society

University PI: Tiffany Beckman, Assistant Professor, UMN Department of Medicine and College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

Amount Awarded: $50,000

Length of Project: 1 Year

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 University of Minnesota, 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

Community PI: Winona LaDuke, MA, Executive Director, White Earth Land Recovery Project, Member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg (Ojibwe)

University PI: Sandy Olson‐Loy, MA, University of Minnesota Morris Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

Co-Investigators: Lauren Scott, Community Coordinator, White Earth Land Recovery Project; Mary Jo Forbord, Morris Healthy Eating Coordinator; Margaret Kuchenreuther, Associate Professor, UMM Biology; Sheri Breen, Assistant Professor, UMM Political Science

Amount Awarded: $49,674

Length of Project: 1 Year

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.

Title: Body and Soul for Kwanzaa’s Northside Community

Community PI: Kevin L. Gilliam II, M.D., NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center

University PI: Jennifer A. Linde, Ph.D, Assistant Professor, UMN-SPH Division of Epidemiology and Community Health

Amount Awarded: $50,000

Length of Project: 1 Year

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.

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

Community PI: Clarence Jones, Southside Community Health Services, Community Outreach Director

University PI: Shelley Sherman, UMN Extension Health & Nutrition Educator and Assistant Extension Professor

Team Members: Terry Straub, Co-investigator; Hennepin County Extension Master Gardener Coordinator; Mary Marczak, Ph.D; UMN Extension Family Development, Research Associate & Evaluation Specialist; Barbara Grossman; Extension Urban Operations Director

Amount Awarded: $50,000

Length of Project: 1 Year

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.


University Faculty Research Grant Program

Title: Prevalence and molecular epidemiology of Clostridium difficile in food and companion animals, retail meats, and humans in Minnesota

PI(s): James Johnson, MD, Infectious Diseases and Intl Medicine (School of Medicine)

Co-Investigator(s): Jeff Bender, DVM, Veterinary Public Health (College of Veterinary Medicine); Francisco Diez-Gonzalez, PhD, Food Science and Nutrition (CFANS); Megan Shaughnessy, MD, Infectious Diseases and Intl Medicine (School of Medicine); David Boxrud, MS, Molecular Typing Laboratory (MN Dept of Health); Stacy Holzbauer, DVM, Emerging Infections Program (MN Dept of Health); Kirk Smith, DVM, PhD, Acute Disease Investigation and Control (MN Dept of Health

Amount Awarded: $50,000

Length of Project: 2 Years

Abstract: Clostridium difficile (CD) infection (CDI) is an increasingly frequent and severe illness among humans. A growing fraction of CDI cases occurs in the community and involves individuals who lack traditional risk factors for CDI, such as antibiotic use and healthcare exposure. This, plus sporadic reports of recovery of CD from food animals, companion animals, and retail meats, suggests a possible zoonotic or foodborne component to the current CDI epidemic. To gain insights into this possibility, we propose (i) to screen diverse Minnesota food animals and companion animals, plus locally purchased retail meat products, for CD; (ii) to compare prevalence values across animal species and meat types, in relation to production methods, especially antibiotic exposure; and (iii) to molecularly type the isolates, then compare the genotypes of animal-source and food-source isolates with those of human clinical CD isolates from the Minnesota Department of Health's ongoing population-based CD surveillance in central Minnesota. The study's findings will provide novel insights into the possibility of zoonotic or foodborne transmission of CD to humans in Minnesota, and will generate pilot data for a future larger grant application.

Title: Evidence translation for childhood obesity prevention in Minnesota

PI(s): Sarah Gollust, PhD, Health Policy and Management (School of Public Health); Marilyn S. Nanney, PhD, Family Medicine and Community Health (School of Medicine)

Co-Investigator(s): Karen Cadigan, PhD, U of M Children, Youth, and Family Consortium; Rachel Callanan, JD, American Heart Association; Susan Weisman, JD, Public Health Law Center

Amount Awarded: $46,554

Length of Project: 2 Years

Abstract: Preventing childhood obesity is an urgent public health challenge that demands innovative policy approaches. Critically missing in current obesity prevention efforts is a quick and efficient system for translating the best available evidence from research to policy. Little is known about how childhood obesity evidence is used to influence the policymaking process or the barriers and facilitators for getting research evidence translated to, and used by, policymakers. In this project, we will convene a faculty-community collaborative to analyze the process of childhood obesity policymaking in Minnesota, with the objective of developing a system for communicating timely and relevant evidence to policymakers. In the first task, we will use content analysis methods to examine the types and sources of research evidence and other persuasive information (e.g., anecdotes, values, norms, public opinion polls) that Minnesota legislators and advocates have used to frame the policy problem of childhood obesity over a 5-year period (2006-2011) in policy-relevant documents and news reports. In the second task, we will conduct semi-structured interviews with a sample (n=30) of Minnesota political actors to examine the barriers and facilitators to use of research evidence and the types, sources, and formats of research evidence that political actors wish to use in the policymaking process. In the third task, we will integrate the data collected in the first two aims to inform the creation of a model system for communicating research evidence to an existing intermediary community-based policy center and then to relevant advocates, media contacts, and state policymakers. A pilot evaluation of the system using interviews and media tracking will indicate whether findings from a targeted University of Minnesota research initiative were successfully disseminated, laying the groundwork for a larger systematic evaluation of the policy impact of our evidence-translation system.

Title: Hypoallergenization of Soy Protein Using a Combination of Enzymatichydrolysis and Spontaneous Maillard Conjugation

PI(s): Baraem Ismail, PhD, Food Science and Nutrition (CFANS)

Co-Investigator(s): P. Srirama Rao, PhD, Veterinary, Biomedical Sciences (College of Veterinary Medicine); Malcolm Blumenthal, MD, Medicine and Pediatrics (School of Medicine); Aaron Rendahl, PhD, School of Statistics (CLA, College of Science and Engineering)

Amount Awarded: $49,986

Length of Project: 2 Years

Abstract: Consumption of soy protein was found to have positive correlation with several health benefits. However, one of the major drawbacks for the expanded use of soy proteins is their allergenicity. Soybean is now recognized by the FDA as one of “the big eight” food allergens. While it is hard to eliminate soybean allergy as a crop, it is possible to reduce the allergenicity of soy protein ingredients, which are used in many food applications, by modifying the protein structure. This project will combine two mechanisms, proteolysis and Maillard conjugation, under controlled and mild conditions and monitor the synergistic effect on reducing allergenicity of soy protein. Utilizing mild conditions is hypothesized to have minimal effect on quality, digestibility and nutritional value. Soy protein will be subjected to enzymatic hydrolysis by Alcalase followed by induced Maillard conjugation using glucose. Response surface methodology will be employed to jointly optimize enzymatic hydrolysis conditions and Maillard conjugation parameters. Degree of hydrolysis will be monitored to ensure minimal hydrolysis, because excessive hydrolysis is known to have detrimental effect on sensory and functional properties of the final product. Maillard conjugation will be monitored to ensure minimal propagation of the reaction to unwanted Maillard products. Protein profiling and characterization will be done following various electrophoretic techniques. Soy IgE immunoreactivity will be monitored using ELISA and western blot techniques while utilizing sera from soybean allergic donors. Digestibility and amino acid profiles of selected hypoallergenic soy protein products will be determined using established methods. The allergic responses of both the native and the modified protein will be determined in a mouse model post oral ingestion. Data generated will support a longer-term study aiming at the production of safe and healthy soy protein ingredient that can be utilized in a wide range of food applications, acceptable by the end consumers.


Graduate and Professional Research Grant Program

Title: Effect of conjugation on bioavailability of soy isoflavones

PI(s): Vamsi Yerramsetty, Food Science doctoral student (CFANS)   

Advisor(s): Baraem Ismail, Food Science and Nutrition (CFANS)                                                                                                

Amount Awarded: $9,958

Length of Project: 1 Year

Title: Impacts of Mandatory Calorie Posting in Restaurant Chains: How do menus change?

PI(s): Alison Sexton, Applied Economics doctoral student (CFANS-Carlson School of Management-Humphrey Institute)                                                                                                                  

Advisor(s): Tim Beatty, Applied Economics (CFANS)

Amount Awarded: $6,811

Length of Project: 1 Year

Title: Food habits research and the history of American food policy, 1930-1970

PI(s): Michael Wise, History doctoral student (College of Liberal Arts)                                                                                                                    

Advisor(s):Susan Jones, Ecology Evolution and Behavior (CBS) and David Chang, History (CLA)

Amount Awarded: $4,722

Length of Project: 1 Year

Title: Determining the impact of abrupt vs gradual salt reduction, a reduced salt claim, and motivation to consume a low salt diet on acceptability of a reduced salt model food

PI(s): Nuala Bobowski, Food Science doctoral student (CFANS)                                                                                                                      

Advisor(s): Zata Vickers, Food Science and Nutrition (CFANS)

Amount Awarded: $10,000

Length of Project: 1 Year

2010 Grantees

Community-University Partnership Grant Program

Title: Little Earth Food Justice and Youth Empowerment Project (Year 2)

PI(s): Lucy Arias/Little Earth of United Tribes; Jay Clark/Minnesota Center for Neighborhood Organizing

Co-Investigator: Margaret Kaplan/MCNO 

Amount Awarded: $49,998

Length of Project: 1 Year

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: A Catalog of Hmong Medicinal Plants

Community PI: Pakou Hang/Community Activist

University PI: Harry Boyte/UMN Center for Democracy and Citizenship

Amount Awarded: $48,893

Length of Project: 1 Year

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.

Title: Sacred Foods Equal Healthy Lives

Community PI: Lea Foushee/North American Water Office

University PI: Craig Hassel/Food Science and Nutrition

Amount Awarded: $42,010

Length of Project: 1 Year

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-waabaabiganikaagwith 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

Community PI: Gunnar Liden/Youth Farm and Market Project

University PI: Nancy Leland/Healthy Youth Development  & Prevention Research Center

Co-Investigators: Phil Rooney/Youth Farm and Market Project; Colin Cureton/Youth Farm and Market Project; Amanda Stoelb/Youth Farm and Market Project

Amount Awarded: $47,284

Length of Project: 1 Year

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. 

University Faculty Research Grant Program

Title: Prevalence and molecular epidemiology of Clostridium difficile in food and companion animals, retail meats, and humans in Minnesota

PI(s): James Johnson, MD, Infectious Diseases and Intl Medicine (School of Medicine)

Co-Investigator(s): Jeff Bender, DVM, Veterinary Public Health (College of Veterinary Medicine); Francisco Diez-Gonzalez, PhD, Food Science and Nutrition (CFANS); Megan Shaughnessy, MD, Infectious Diseases and Intl Medicine (School of Medicine); David Boxrud, MS, Molecular Typing Laboratory (MN Dept of Health); Stacy Holzbauer, DVM, Emerging Infections Program (MN Dept of Health); Kirk Smith, DVM, PhD, Acute Disease Investigation and Control (MN Dept of Health)

Amount Awarded: $50,000

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: Clostridium difficile (CD) infection (CDI) is an increasingly frequent and severe illness among humans. A growing fraction of CDI cases occurs in the community and involves individuals who lack traditional risk factors for CDI, such as antibiotic use and healthcare exposure. This, plus sporadic reports of recovery of CD from food animals, companion animals, and retail meats, suggests a possible zoonotic or foodborne component to the current CDI epidemic. To gain insights into this possibility, we propose (i) to screen diverse Minnesota food animals and companion animals, plus locally purchased retail meat products, for CD; (ii) to compare prevalence values across animal species and meat types, in relation to production methods, especially antibiotic exposure; and (iii) to molecularly type the isolates, then compare the genotypes of animal-source and food-source isolates with those of human clinical CD isolates from the Minnesota Department of Health's ongoing population-based CD surveillance in central Minnesota. The study's findings will provide novel insights into the possibility of zoonotic or foodborne transmission of CD to humans in Minnesota, and will generate pilot data for a future larger grant application.

Title: Evidence translation for childhood obesity prevention in Minnesota

PI(s): Sarah Gollust, PhD, Health Policy and Management (School of Public Health); Marilyn S. Nanney, PhD, Family Medicine and Community Health (School of Medicine)

Co-Investigator(s): Karen Cadigan, PhD, U of M Children, Youth, and Family Consortium; Rachel Callanan, JD, American Heart Association; Susan Weisman, JD, Public Health Law Center

Amount Awarded: $46,554

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: Preventing childhood obesity is an urgent public health challenge that demands innovative policy approaches. Critically missing in current obesity prevention efforts is a quick and efficient system for translating the best available evidence from research to policy. Little is known about how childhood obesity evidence is used to influence the policymaking process or the barriers and facilitators for getting research evidence translated to, and used by, policymakers. In this project, we will convene a faculty-community collaborative to analyze the process of childhood obesity policymaking in Minnesota, with the objective of developing a system for communicating timely and relevant evidence to policymakers. In the first task, we will use content analysis methods to examine the types and sources of research evidence and other persuasive information (e.g., anecdotes, values, norms, public opinion polls) that Minnesota legislators and advocates have used to frame the policy problem of childhood obesity over a 5-year period (2006-2011) in policy-relevant documents and news reports. In the second task, we will conduct semi-structured interviews with a sample (n=30) of Minnesota political actors to examine the barriers and facilitators to use of research evidence and the types, sources, and formats of research evidence that political actors wish to use in the policymaking process. In the third task, we will integrate the data collected in the first two aims to inform the creation of a model system for communicating research evidence to an existing intermediary community-based policy center and then to relevant advocates, media contacts, and state policymakers. A pilot evaluation of the system using interviews and media tracking will indicate whether findings from a targeted University of Minnesota research initiative were successfully disseminated, laying the groundwork for a larger systematic evaluation of the policy impact of our evidence-translation system.

Title: Hypoallergenization of Soy Protein Using a Combination of Enzymatichydrolysis and Spontaneous Maillard Conjugation

PI(s): Baraem Ismail, PhD, Food Science and Nutrition (CFANS)

Co-Investigator(s): P. Srirama Rao, PhD, Veterinary, Biomedical Sciences (College of Veterinary Medicine); Malcolm Blumenthal, MD, Medicine and Pediatrics (School of Medicine); Aaron Rendahl, PhD, School of Statistics (CLA, College of Science and Engineering)

Amount Awarded: $49,986

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: Consumption of soy protein was found to have positive correlation with several health benefits. However, one of the major drawbacks for the expanded use of soy proteins is their allergenicity. Soybean is now recognized by the FDA as one of “the big eight” food allergens. While it is hard to eliminate soybean allergy as a crop, it is possible to reduce the allergenicity of soy protein ingredients, which are used in many food applications, by modifying the protein structure. This project will combine two mechanisms, proteolysis and Maillard conjugation, under controlled and mild conditions and monitor the synergistic effect on reducing allergenicity of soy protein. Utilizing mild conditions is hypothesized to have minimal effect on quality, digestibility and nutritional value. Soy protein will be subjected to enzymatic hydrolysis by Alcalase followed by induced Maillard conjugation using glucose. Response surface methodology will be employed to jointly optimize enzymatic hydrolysis conditions and Maillard conjugation parameters. Degree of hydrolysis will be monitored to ensure minimal hydrolysis, because excessive hydrolysis is known to have detrimental effect on sensory and functional properties of the final product. Maillard conjugation will be monitored to ensure minimal propagation of the reaction to unwanted Maillard products. Protein profiling and characterization will be done following various electrophoretic techniques. Soy IgE immunoreactivity will be monitored using ELISA and western blot techniques while utilizing sera from soybean allergic donors. Digestibility and amino acid profiles of selected hypoallergenic soy protein products will be determined using established methods. The allergic responses of both the native and the modified protein will be determined in a mouse model post oral ingestion. Data generated will support a longer-term study aiming at the production of safe and healthy soy protein ingredient that can be utilized in a wide range of food applications, acceptable by the end consumers.

 

2009 Grantees

Community-University Partnership Grant Program

Title: 

Community PI: David Abazs, Farmer, Round River Farm, Duluth, MN 

University PI: Stacy Stark, Director, Geographic Information Sciences Laboratory, U of M Duluth, MN

Co-Investigators: David Syring/Anthropology (UMD); Gayle Nikolai/Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Reservation; Mike Mageau/Center for Sustainability Community Development (UMD)

Amount Awarded: $34,280

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: This research will 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. Community farmer interest and collaborations to explore the capacity of the region to produce food, based on local definitions of workable land, spawned the University involvement. The University expertise in this proposal includes ethnographic interviewing, geographic information systems data development and analysis, and community economic analysis. The outcomes of this work will provide a research-based assessment of the current food system; including community supported agriculture, livestock producers, wild food harvesters and commercial growers. A "regional pattern" diet will be conceptualized, which will be used to analyze the impact that a shift in local foods eating would have on the collective physical and economic health of the region in contrast to the SAD. The model for this regional diet will be explored in collaboration with tribal groups, who provide the historical precedent for what a regional diet could look like, and who conduct significant educational work related to the negative health impacts of the SAD diet on the health of indigenous populations in the region. The producers and supporters collaborating in this effort emphasize that information about the capacity of this region to produce food and to meet consumers’ needs is vital to integrate local food systems into the long term sustainability of this region.

Title: Little Earth Food Justice and Youth Empowerment Project

Community PI: Lucy Arias/Little Earth of United Tribes

University PI: Jay Clark/Minnesota Center for Neighborhood Organizing

Co-Investigators: Margaret Kaplan/MCNO

Amount Awarded: $49,821

Length of Project: 1 Year

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. Through early intervention and access, this project hopes to not only reach young children, but also parents and siblings. 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. The three specific areas will be improving food options at the Neighborhood Early Learning Center, teaching children about healthy and traditional foods, and creating broader community learning opportunities. 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


University Faculty Research Grant Program

Title: Mother-Infant Feeding Interactions and Infant Physical and Cognitive Development: A Transdisciplinary Research Collaboration

PI(s): Stephanie M. Carlson, PhD, Associate Professor, Institute of Child Development; Ellen W. Demerath, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Public Health; Michael K. Georgieff, MD, Professor, Pediatrics and Child Development; Director, Center for Neurobehavioral Development

Co-Investigator: Danielle M. Beck, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Simpson University

Amount Awarded: $100,000

Length of Project: 2 Years

Abstract: Obesity is associated with severe health risks and has become an epidemic in many developed nations. The most marked increases in obesity over the last three decades have occurred in children. Research is needed by multidisciplinary teams to extend current understanding of links between infant nutrition, maternal perceptions of infant hunger and feeding practices, and the neurocognitive factors associated with obesity, especially in early childhood. The proposed research, spanning three departments and disciplines, aims to develop a valid questionnaire on maternal perceptions of infant hunger and satiety; examine relations between these perceptions/feeding practices and parent attributes including executive function (self-control of thought and action); and investigate a mediation model in which parent attributes influence infant feeding practices, which in turn influence infant/child growth and weight status and executive function. Preliminary data suggest these links exist, but no prior study has examined these factors in conjunction. The project will take place over a 2-year period and include at least 125 mother-infant dyads. It will have a significant short-term impact on measurement tools available to obesity researchers, offer a novel direction for research on the neurocognitive bases for the development and maintenance of child obesity, and provide a springboard for external funding on a larger scale.

Title: Preventing Obesity in the Worksite: A Multi‐Message, Multi‐“Step” Approach

PI(s): Jennifer Feenstra Schultz, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Economics- UMD; Lara LaCaille, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology- UMD

Co-Investigators: Rick LaCaille, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, UMD; Ryan Goei, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, UMD; Rebecca de Souza, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, UMDAmy Versnik Nowak, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation

Amount Awarded: $99,994

Length of Project: 2 Years

Abstract: Over one‐third of Americans are now considered obese. Efforts to prevent obesity involve changing the individual behaviors that contribute to obesity, mainly healthful eating and physical activity, as well as the social and physical context in which those behaviors take place. Due to their existing networks and available resources, worksites are a logical place to help individuals make healthy choices through health promotion efforts. The purpose of this project is to partner with a community hospital to plan, implement, and evaluate a multi‐component obesity prevention program in their workplace. The prevention program will target individual and interpersonal determinants of eating behavior and physical activity, as well as the context in which these behaviors take place. It is hypothesized that simultaneously offering individual tools, providing information and persuasive messaging, and changing the social environment will lead to healthier eating, increased participation in physical activity, and reduced risk for obesity. Our research team’s established relationship with St. Luke’s hospital, the willingness of their employees to participate in prior research studies, and a corporate culture that is supportive of innovation offer an ideal environment to test a novel worksite obesity prevention program. This intervention will include four integrated components: (1) nutrition labeling in the worksite cafeteria, (2) distributing pedometers to employees, (3) persuasive media messaging, and (4) the use of “influentials” to address social norms around eating and physical activity behaviors. A quasi‐experimental design will examine the effectiveness of this multi‐component worksite obesity prevention program.

Title: State Level Food System Indicators

PI(s): Robert P. King, Professor, Department of Applied Economics

Co-Investigators: Molly D. Anderson, Food Systems Integrity, Arlington, MA; David Mulla, Professor, Department of Soil, Water and Climate; Mary Story, Professor, Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health

Amount Awarded: $99,050

Length of Project: 2 Years

Abstract: Today’s food system is complex and multifaceted. It affects human health, the environment, and the economy. It is also closely linked to culture and our sense of community. Sound food policy formation requires a robust understanding of the current food system status as well as of the linkages between policy initiatives and changes in the food system. The Wallace Center has recently developed basic framework and set of national indicators for understanding and monitoring the status and performance of the U.S. food system.  These indicators are built around the concepts of “healthy, fair, green, and affordable.”  However, national indicators have two significant shortcomings. First, they may mask important heterogeneity across regions, states, and communities. Second, with indicators for only a single geographic area, it is not possible to use statistical procedures to assess the reliability and validity of the food system indicators and the conceptual framework that underlies them.  In this study we will develop a set of state-level food system indicators and collect data on them for all 50 states for the period 1997 – 2007. We hypothesize that there will be significant variation in food system status across states and over time. We also hypothesize that the “healthy, fair, green, and affordable” framework developed by the Wallace Center is a valid construct for assessing food system status at the state level. After collecting data on 20 to 30 indicators for 50 states over 11 years, we will conduct a confirmatory factor analysis designed to assess the validity of the Wallace Center’s “healthy, fair, green, and affordable” framework. We will also assess the stability of the factors and the associated factor loadings that emerge from the analysis. Project outcomes will serve as a valuable resource for policy makers and planners at the state and national levels.

2008 Grantees

University Faculty Research Grant Program

Title: 

Computing an Appropriate School Lunch Price Index for Federal Reimbursements for the National School Lunch Program”

PI(s): Ben Senauer (Applied Economics)

Co-Investigator(s): Marla Reicks (Food Science and Nutrition); Mary Story (Epidemiology); Len Marquart (Food Science and Nutrition)

Amount Awarded: $95,989

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: The National School Lunch Program (NSLP), instituted under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act of 1966, is a federally assisted meal program operating in over 101,000 schools that provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to many children each school day (30.5 million in 2007). Cash reimbursements (currently $2.57 for free lunches, $ 2.17 for reduced price lunches, and $0.24 for paid lunches) provided by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for each school lunch meal served form the bulk of the federal support provided to schools to enable them to achieve the policy goal of delivering adequate food and nutrition to children. However, the amount of reimbursement provided to schools is deemed inadequate (as reported by school food authorities/school districts and the major professional association – the School Nutrition Association) for truly achieving the NSLP goal of adequate nutrition delivery. This is particularly so in times of high food costs, which interfere with school food services’ ability to improve the healthfulness of the meals served to the children, impeding the way the NSLP can be used as a means for countering the epidemic of childhood obesity, as well as preventing hunger among children from low income families. Investigation reveals that USDA’s NSLP reimbursement rate adjustments reflect changes in the Food Away from Home Series of the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (FAFH-CPI-UC) provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). FAFH-CPI-UC primarily uses price data from commercial food establishments which typically tend to be very different from school food services both in the food that is served and the distribution of the cost of meal production over various cost components like food and labor. The FAFH-CPI-UC clearly does not provide an appropriate basis for determining adjustments in reimbursement rates for school lunches. The inadequacy of federal support in the face of the assistance needs as stated by school food authorities (school districts) demands a different basis for reimbursement adjustments that adequately reflects changes in school lunch prices and enables improved achievement of the child nutrition policy goals

Title: The Effects of Federal Food Assistance Programs on Food Insecurity and the Healthy Development of Young Children

PI(s): Judy Temple (Humphrey Institute and Applied Economics)

Co-Investigator(s): Jayne Fulkerson (Nursing); Elton Mykerezi (Applied Economics); Arthur Reynolds (Institute of Child Development)

Amount Awarded: $97,012

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: In this proposed research we investigate the relationship between two major types of federal food assistance programs, household food insecurity and the subsequent health and well-being of young children up to age 5. Specifically, we estimate the effects of household participation in Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the Food Stamp Program on food insecurity using a new nationally-representative data set of U.S. children born in 2001. We also investigate the effects of WIC and Food Stamp receipt on food insecurity and various measures of child health and cognitive development. Recent reports indicate that the prevalence of severe food insecurity or hunger is growing among U.S. children. At the same time, relatively little evidence exists of the effects of WIC and Food Stamps on young children. In this interdisciplinary research project we seek to understand the mechanisms through which food assistance can promote healthy child development.

Title: Institutional and Consumer Decision‐Making in the Hospital Setting: An Evaluation of a Healthy Food Practices Model

PI(s): Jennifer Schultz (Economics, UMN Duluth)

Co-Investigator(s): Kim Nichols Dauner (Health, PhysEd and Recreation, UMD); Jill Klingner (Health Care Management and Operations Mgmt, UMD); Lara LaCaille (Psychology, UMD); Rick LaCaille (Psychology, UMD)

Amount Awarded: $54,677

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: The health care industry is establishing itself as a leader in creating a model of healthy food practices by implementing an approach that involves working with local farmers, purchasing food grown without pesticides and hormone additives, offering sustainably produced and healthy food choices, and minimizing food waste. Hospitals are also identifying a link between a healthy food system and healthy patients and communities in hospitals’ policies and programs. To study this innovation in health care we propose to (1) document processes associated with food selection, purchasing and pricing in a hospital setting and document the cost associated with offering local, sustainably produced and healthy food; (2) investigate the role of demographic characteristics, health behaviors, and psychosocial motivations on reported and actual food selection in a hospital cafeteria; and (3) investigate whether food selection behavior changes as a result of changes in food prices and labeling food as organic, sustainably produced or made from locally grown ingredients. Documenting the processes and costs associated with this shift in food systems will provide a model for other hospitals and health care systems interested in modifying their food systems. Ultimately the adoption of healthy food systems in health care may lead to a change in agricultural production that promotes health and reduces obesity and chronic disease. In addition, knowing the determinants of food selection behavior can allow for the development of interventions to increase the consumption of healthy food in the hospital (worksite) setting. Identifying factors in food selection is important in shaping food policy and can ultimately improve the health of many individuals at risk for poor food choice and consumption.

Title: Kava as a chemopreventive agent against colorectal tumorigenesis

PI(s): Chengguo Xing (Medicinal Chemistry)

Co-Investigator(s): Dan Gallaher (Food Science and Nutrition); Michael O’Sullivan (Veterinary Population Medicine)

Amount Awarded: $50,000

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: Colorectal cancer is one of the major malignancies in the United States with around 160,000 new cases and 55,000 mortalities annually. The lifetime risk of diagnosis with colorectal cancer in the U.S. is about 5.9% for men and 5.5% for women. Colorectal tumorigenesis develops through a multi-step process characterized by the transition from normal mucosa to adenoma and then to carcinoma. This process spans, on average, 15-20 years. Such a sequential, protracted process provides the opportunity for chemoprevention to be a potential strategy to help control colorectal tumorigenesis. In fact, it is believed that 50-80% of colorectal cancers are potentially preventable. Based on literature reports and the results of our preliminary studies, kava is one potential dietary component that may prevent colorectal tumorigenesis. The goal of this study is to establish the chemopreventive activity of kava in an accepted colorectal tumorigenesis animal model and to establish the safety of kava.

Title: Biorational Development of Plant Disease Biocontrol

PI(s): Linda Kinkel (Plant Pathology)

Co-Investigator(s): Christine Salomon (Center for Drug Design); Carl Rosen (Soil, Water and Climate)

Amount Awarded: $50,000

Length of Project: 1 Year

Abstract: Biological control of plant disease offers significant promise as a means for reducing pesticide inputs into the environment and enhancing food safety.  However, questions remain about the potential for antibiotic-producing biocontrol organisms to increase the frequency of antibiotic resistance genes in environmental microbes.  The acquisition of antibiotic resistance genes by clinically-significant bacteria from environmental microbes represents a substantial public health risk.  The proposed work explores strategies to minimize the risk that biological control of plant diseases will contribute significantly to the development of an environmental reservoir of resistance to medically-significant antibiotics.  Specifically, this work develops a multiple-strain biocontrol strategy to minimize directional selection for individual antibiotic resistances; uses biochemical analyses to exclude from consideration antagonists that produce clinically relevant antibiotics; determines the frequency of resistance and the likelihood of the development of resistance by pathogen isolates to different antagonists as a basis for antagonist selection; and explores the influences of nitrogen availability on antibiotic resistance within the pathogen population.  The proposed work will both enhance the prospects for effective biological control and reduce the likelihood of significant increases in antibiotic resistance genes among the pathogen population in soil.  This work will also develop new and interdisciplinary ways of addressing issues at the agricultural-human health interface. 

2007 Grantees

University Faculty Research Grant Program

Title: Identifying Bioactive Food Components with Anti-Inflammatory and Anti-Obesogenic Effects 

PI(s): Doug Mashek (BMBB and Medicine); David Bernlohr(CBS)

Co-Investigator(s): Xiaoli Chen (CFANS); Howard C. Towle (BMBB) 

Amount Awarded: $300,000

Length of Project: 3 Years

Abstract: The goal of this research is to facilitate the discovery of novel food-derived compounds that affect adipose (i.e. fat) tissue metabolism. Specifically, we will screen thousands of compounds isolated from herbs and other foods with medicinal properties that posses the ability to decrease inflammation and accumulation of adipose tissue. By doing so, we hope to identify food components that may be used to prevent or treat metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes. 

Title: Reduction in Colon and Liver Cancer Risk by Combined Consumption of Cruciferous and Apiaceous Vegetables 

PI(s): Sabrina Peterson (CFANS, FScN); Dan Gallaher (CFANS, FScN)

Co-Investigator(s): Joellen Feirtag (Extension); Myron Gross (Medicine); Will Thomas (SPH) 

Amount Awarded: $297,834

Length of Project: 3 Years

Abstract: Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers diagnosed. Liver cancer rates have been increasing in the United States. We will be studying how the carrot-family of vegetables (carrots, celery, parsnips, etc.) and the broccoli-family of vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.) may prevent colon and liver cancer. Each vegetable family contains a different group of natural compounds that influence two different processes for detoxifying cancer-causing toxins. Using rats, we will determine if the combination of purified compounds from both vegetable groups is more protective against toxins than one group. We will also compare if intact, whole food sources of the compounds are more protective than the purified compounds. 

Title: Microbial Ecology, Control and Consumer Perception of Foodborne Pathogens Associated with Fresh Vegetables 

PI(s): Francisco Diez-Gonzalez (CFANS, FScN)

Co-Investigator(s): Jeffrey Bender (VPM, CVM); Craig Hedberg (EHS, SPH); Michael Sadowsky (SWC, CFANS); Cindy Tong (Horticulture, CFANS) 

Amount Awarded: $587,005

Length of Project: 3 Years

Abstract: Recent food poisoning outbreaks have been caused by eating vegetables contaminated with harmful strains of E. coli and Salmonella. In order to prevent these outbreaks we need a better understanding of how current farm practices lead to or prevent contamination and what unique characteristics of these pathogenic bacteria allow them to survive on vegetables. This project involves microbiologists, horticulturists, and public health and food safety experts working together to identify farm practices, environmental conditions, and specific genes that allow pathogenic E. coli and Salmonella to contaminate and grow on vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, and tomatoes. The project’s findings will help us develop effective control measures to reduce the number of food poisoning outbreaks and enhance consumer confidence in the safety of fresh fruits and vegetables.