Date of Defense:
April 20, 2018
In addition to being designated a Racially Concentrated Area of Poverty (RCAP), two census tracts along the Zane Avenue Corridor in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota are also identified as food deserts by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The city identified food insecurity as a critical need and sought ways to increase access to and consumption of healthy food for the long-term health of the community.
The goal of this field experience was to gather information about the knowledge, beliefs, practices, and barriers to nutrition and healthy activity in Brooklyn Park, with a focus on families with children, which would be used to inform the development of food access improvement projects. The activities used to accomplish the objectives were the following: (1) work within Brooklyn Park RCAP to determine the disparities in a specified population (families with children), (2) review existing local data sources, (3) connect classroom learning to field experience through project development and presentation, (4) conduct a literature review to determine if interventions have been done in similar areas, (5) network and build relationships within field experience work by presenting findings at the Resilient Communities Project (RCP) End-of-Year Celebration.
RCP is a University of Minnesota program that supports one-year partnerships between the University and Minnesota communities to advance local sustainability and resilience (Resilient Communities Project, 2018). RCP’s mission is to connect communities with the students and faculty to (1) build local capacity around sustainability and resilience issues, (2) train students to be future sustainability practitioners, and (3) produce case studies, best practices, and tools that can inform sustainability practice throughout the state (Resilient Communities Project, 2018). Each year, RCP identifies 15–30 potential projects based on community-identified environmental, social, and economic issues and needs (Resilient Communities Project, 2018). The food access project was one of the projects determined by the Brooklyn Park RCP partnership to inform best practices and sustainability.
Final Report Components
Data: Of the seven urban tracts that are a part of Zane Avenue Corridor, five are low-income. The poverty rate ranges from 13.1% to as high as 36.6% (United States Department of Agriculture, 2017). Household incomes are widely distributed, but about 40.50% of households in Zane Avenue Corridor have an income less than $35,000. The United States is facing an insecurity-obesity paradox, where many individuals suffer from both conditions at the same time. The USDA defines food insecurity as limited access to adequate food by a lack of money and other resources (United States Department of Agriculture, 2017). For Minnesota children two to five years old, the prevalence of overweight and obesity has been going down, but in Brooklyn Park the prevalence is on the rise especially in racially diverse, low access, and impoverished areas. There was a 13.7% increase in two- to five-year olds who were overweight and obese and a 10.1% increase in individuals two- to five-years old who were obese in Brooklyn Park (Women, Infants, and Children, 2017).
Literature Review Findings: Literature review findings suggest that a focus on changing policies, systems, and environments to prevent obesity by promoting healthful eating and active living was important for success. Though interventions varied greatly between policy, environmental, and system changes, three common themes emerged: (1) advertising and marketing, (2) youth engagement, and (3) community and academic partnerships. Advertising and marketing had a large impact on what individuals purchased at convenience stores, grocery stores, and even farmer’s markets. Recommendations for future research that emerged from the review included more focus on linkages between increased advertising, changes in school budgets, and student health outcomes (Gebauer and Laska, 2011). Youth engagement was found to be an effective strategy, including involving youth in the implementation and/or evaluation of programs. This practice could more fully engage the child population by allowing them to have input into the creation of a project to ensure it is what is wanted and needed. Community and academic partnerships were found to help facilitate that engagement with the community.
Student Proposed Program: The program proposed to the City of Brooklyn Park upon completion of this project was the implementation a community garden youth and family program through Zanewood Recreational Center. A logic model and proposed evaluation plan describes the key components of the program. Potential stakeholders are the youth, City of Brooklyn Park, parents and families of youth, businesses surrounding Zanewood Rec Center, schools, Brooklyn Alliance for Youth, and Hennepin County. Throughout the year of this intervention there would be weekly gardening sessions for youth, weekly cooking classes for families, and food access resources available. This program would help increase knowledge, skills, and behaviors of youth surrounding healthy eating and growing food, increasing a sense of community, as well as increasing satisfaction, ownership, work ethic, and timeliness of youth in the community. To evaluate the program, formative, process, and outcome evaluations would be done.
Upon starting this field experience, a clear direction for the project wasn’t obvious. Having an outline, goals, and learning objectives helped to set the stage for what was to be done. Self-discipline and time management were skills that were essential to completing this type of project. The creation a timeline of activities up front and sticking to that timeline was another aspect critical to success. This field experience also reinforced the importance of data management programs such as Excel and Access as well as the importance of specific training in evaluation when working in a public health setting. The ability to create logic models and pivot tables from large datasets, and to produce evaluation plans are important skills for public health professionals to have.
An ideal project to resolve food insecurity and improve food access in youth would start with a strong formative assessment of the community. Intervention on multiple levels, with a strong focus on youth engagement and community and academic partnerships is also critical for success.
Lack of healthy food access can have detrimental effects on the health of children and adolescents, which can affect their lifestyles and health in adulthood. Store communication tools, location and stock of “quickie marts,” and nutrition policies all play a large role as risk factors in healthy food access. Changing the current food environment will need to be comprehensive, focusing on increasing awareness and knowledge, changing and sustaining healthy behaviors, improving the food environment, and addressing other social determinants of health (Cyzman, Wierenga, and Sielawa, 2009).
Caspi, C.E., Davey, C., Nelson, T.F., et. al. (2015). Disparities persist in nutrition policies and practices in Minnesota secondary schools. J Acad Nutri Diet, 115, 419-425.
Cyzman, D., Wierenga, J., and Sielawa, J. (2009). Pioneering healthier communities, West Michigan: a community response to the food environment. Health Promotion Practice, 10(2), 146S-155S.
Freedman, D.A., Bell, B.A., and Collins, L.V. (2011). The Veggie Project: a case study of a multi-component farmers’ market intervention. J Primary Prevent, 32, 213-224. http://doi: 10.1007/s10935-011-0245-9
Gebauer, H. and Laska, M.N. (2011). Convenience stores surrounding urban schools: an assessment of healthy food availability, advertising, and product placement. Journal of Urban Health, 88(4), 616-622.
WIC: Women, Infants, and Children. (2017). Hennepin County. Retrieved from http://www.hennepin.us/residents/health-medical/wic-women-infants-children
Laska, M.N., Caspi, C.E., Pelletier, J.E., et. al. (2015). Lack of healthy food in small-size retailers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, 2014. Prev Chronic Dis, 12, 150171.
Resilient Communities Project. (2018). University of Minnesota. Retrieved from http://rcp.umn.edu/home/what-is-rcp/
United States Department of Agriculture. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.ers.usda.gov/