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Detroit URC, Poverty Solutions award new grants to community-academic poverty research

Contact: Lauren Slagter,

DETROIT – 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 the research questions that 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 at the U-M School of Public Health.

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

Tammy Chang and Marika Waselewski, both of U-M’s Department of Family Medicine, 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 (WIC). 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. This project will be led by Marcus Harris and Crystal Scott, of the U-M Dearborn College of Business; Michael Gordon, of U-M’s 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, of the School of Information; Audrey Bennett, of the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design; 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 and professor at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and School of Social Work. 

2020 community-academic research project descriptions