By Rebecca Danvers
Two grants from the Tisch College Community Research Center at Tufts University (TCRC) will support upcoming research projects in Somerville and Medford, continuing the TCRC’s decade of work backing studies that contribute to Tufts’ host communities. This year’s $25,000 in grant awards will fund studies that seek to evaluate local residents’ access to healthy food in Somerville and gauge the efficacy of a series of community-based discussions in Medford.
An $11,000 grant to the program Shape Up Somerville will enable the program and its partners to complete a community food security assessment. This preliminary report will provide a foundation for a larger comprehensive food system assessment in the city. The ultimate goal of this study is to develop policy-level community action plans across all sectors of the food system, and also to build capacity among the city and community organizations working to address food insecurity for those at highest risk. Research partners based at Tufts University – Virginia R. Chomitz, associate professor of Public Health and Community Medicine, and Jennifer Allen, chair of the Department of Community Health – will advise the Shape Up Somerville working group on developing methods for community-based participatory research.
Tufts researchers were integral to the founding of Shape Up Somerville, which encourages Somerville residents of all ages to lead healthy, active lives by eating right and exercising often. The community-based program has a special aim of combating childhood obesity. Researchers from a variety of Tufts departments and schools have contributed to Shape Up Somerville, including spearheading initiatives in public schools and local businesses.
Shape Up Somerville’s community partners include Cambridge Health Alliance and its affiliate Somerville Hospital, the Somerville Homeless Coalition, and the Somerville Food Security Alliance.
A $14,000 grant will evaluate the effectiveness of Medford Conversations, a series of discussions moderated by fellow community members that seek to open a dialogue about race and ethnic relations in the city. The study aims to judge whether the structure of Medford Conversations – based on a similar framework to the previous Somerville Conversations series – is the most appropriate means to strengthen social capital in an urban context experiencing growing diversity amidst various development pressures. Researchers Ninian Stein, Tufts University Department of Biology, and Dale Bryan,
assistant director of Peace and Justice Studies at Tufts, hope to refine Medford Conversations’ community-based discussion model for optimal impact.
Medford Conversations’ community partners include the NAACP Mystic Valley Branch, Medford Health Matters, Medford Board of Health, the City of Medford’s Humans Rights Commission and the Office of Energy & Environment, Medford High School, Medford Community Coalition, Medford Family Network, Medford Green Line Neighborhood Alliance, Boys & Girls Club of Middlesex County, Medford Chamber of Commerce, Medford Interfaith Clergy, Medford Arts Council, and Earthos Institute.
“In a way these two grantees are a nice contrast,” says Doug Brugge, TCRC director and a professor of public health at Tufts University School of Medicine. “Shape Up Somerville has a long history of collaboration with Tufts, and this work will extend that. Medford Conversations is a new partner, and contributes to growing collaboration in Medford.”
Run by community members and Tufts faculty, the TCRC places a special, but not exclusive, emphasis on Tufts’ host communities of Somerville, Medford, and the Boston neighborhood of Chinatown. Any research funded by TCRC must involve a formal community partner and produce scholarship while yielding knowledge useful to the community. Priority is given to redressing issues of disparity, inequality and injustice in society.
In addition to Shape Up Somerville, past grants have supported diverse research projects, such as studies that analyzed the air quality of neighborhoods immediately bordering the I-93 corridor in Somerville and Boston, assessed obesity prevention efforts among new immigrants, gauged the community response to climate change in Medford, and measured phosphorous loads at Alewife Brook in the Mystic Valley watershed. Reports on the results of this research and other completed TCRC studies can be viewed at http://activecitizen.tufts.edu/research/tcrc/tcrc-research/
TCRC is directly supported by funding from the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life.