Can grocery delivery improve the health of pregnant women?

Are neighborhood entrepreneurship programs increasing economic mobility for low-income Detroiters?

What role could a modern greenhouse play in expanding the ancient African art of bead-making in Detroit?

These are research questions three teams of community and academic partners will tackle this year with support from the Detroit Urban Research Center and Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan. The grant program supports research projects focused on evaluating and strengthening interventions, programs, and policies that seek to prevent and alleviate poverty.

“These community-academic partnerships build on the joint expertise and resources of the university and community organizations to address some of Detroit’s most pressing needs,” said Barbara Israel, director of the Detroit Urban Research Center and professor of health behavior and health education in the School of Public Health.

The three research teams selected for this year’s community-academic grants each received $26,500, a portion of which will go directly to the community partners to support their involvement in the project.

Tammy Chang, assistant professor of family medicine, and Marika Waselewski, research specialist in  family medicine in the Medical School, will work with Gayathri Akella of the Washtenaw County Health Department to evaluate whether it’s feasible for young pregnant women to use online grocery delivery services to order food covered by the supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children.

Their project will assess how satisfied women in Genesee, Wayne and Washtenaw counties are with the delivery service and the impact of food delivery on diet quality and weight gain during pregnancy.

Another research team will evaluate whether microenterprise development and neighborhood entrepreneurship training programs in Detroit contribute to new venture growth, wealth creation and upward economic mobility for people with low to moderate incomes.

That project will be led by Marcus Harris, lecturer III, and Crystal Scott, associate professor of marketing, both of the UM-Dearborn College of Business; Michael Gordon, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and professor of business administration in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business; Nicole Farmer of Grand Innovation; April Boyle and Jacquise Purifoy of the Build Institute; and Jeffrey Robinson of Rutgers Business School.

The third grant will support the creation of an AfricanFuturist greenhouse at the MBAD/ABA African Bead Museum on Grand River Avenue in Detroit, with the goal of combining the African traditions of generative economy with contemporary technology design.

The greenhouse will grow plant materials used in bead creation for pieces displayed and sold at the museum, as well as supply fresh vegetables and fresh fish, from an aquaponics tank. The exterior of the new greenhouse will be designed by local African-American artists, and the interior will be designed by U-M students.

Ron Eglash, professor of information in the School of Information, and of art and design in the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design; Audrey Bennett, University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor and professor of art and design in the Stamps School; and Olayami Dabls, founder of the MBAD African Bead Museum, will oversee the project. 

This marks the fourth round of community-academic grants awarded by the Detroit URC and Poverty Solutions since Poverty Solutions launched in 2016. Poverty Solutions also is continuing its annual faculty grant awards. Project proposals will be reviewed on a rolling basis this year.

“These investments in community and academic partnerships deepen our understanding and bring us closer to collectively identifying concrete solutions that can make a difference for Michigan residents,” said H. Luke Shaefer, director of Poverty Solutions, professor of public policy in the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and professor of social work in the School of Social Work.

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