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Food Insecurity and an Urban American Elementary School: Findings and Consequences of a Community-based Research and Service-Learning Project

Carolyn Behrman, Mary Benedetto, Tom Derrig, Barbara Harsh, Elisa Marchione, Leanna Ross, Michael Vimont


In Spring 2009, undergraduate students in Field Methods in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Akron established a partnership with a teacher and students at an urban elementary school to study food insecurity.  This paper describes how the project was formulated, the roles undergraduate researchers and community partners played, research findings, some of the consequences of participating in the research process, and a programmatic outcome of the research.  The goals of the research were developed in consultation with the school’s child nutrition specialist who expressed concern about food insecurity among the students in this school situated in an extremely low-income, urban neighborhood.  University of Akron undergraduates created a research design that incorporated 5th grade math students as research partners.  Data were collected and analyzed; the results clearly demonstrated a relationship between 4th graders’ increased food consumption and the end of the month, a time of resource depletion for many of the students’ households.  Participation in the project expanded the active community awareness of both the undergraduates and 5th graders.  Findings from the study were used by a local food pantry to adapt food distribution practices to specifically target children’s needs and an ongoing collaborative program of food supplementation was created.


community-based research and service learning; partnerships;

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Partnerships is sponsored by North Carolina Campus Compact, and hosted by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. ISSN: 1944-1061
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