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New U of M-funded projects target healthy eating behaviors

January 31, 2013

Media note: Details about individual projects are available from the researchers and on the HFHL website: Interviews can be arranged through the college or University News Service.

Childhood obesity prevention, food safety practices for immigrant farmers and a study of how cruciferous vegetables affect tumors in mice are among the topics funded through a new series of eight grants from the University of Minnesota’s Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute.

One set of grants involves partnerships between university researchers and community groups; the other group involves researchers from across the university. All of the roughly $50,000 grants are aimed at funding start-up projects that will have a significant impact on food, health and agriculture.

The projects include:

  • "Next Steps," a follow-up to an earlier family-centered obesity prevention program, "Taking Steps Together." In the next phase, researchers will work with community leaders and the Windom Community Center, a predominantly Spanish-speaking Latino population in South Minneapolis, to address obesity management through participating in activities like cooking, gardening and physical activity.
  • A project aimed at developing healthier menu options for traditionally prepared Mexican foods at Twin Cities restaurants and assessing consumer acceptance of the new recipes.
  • Building knowledge about food-safety practices and record-keeping among immigrant farmers, particularly from the Hmong community, who grow and sell foods at Twin Cities farmers markets.
  • "Healthy Weight Management in Diverse Youth", a primary-care clinical approach to helping African American youth and parents served by the Broadway Family Medicine Clinic in North Minneapolis to improve health behaviors, self-perceptions and home environments.
  • Examining the effects of eating cruciferous vegetables – which are believed to have cancer-preventing qualities – on mice. The project is one of the first to explore the relationship between diet and cancer stem cells, and may open an entirely new approach to diet and cancer.

"We’re excited about the University faculty and community-based projects that we funded," said Mindy Kurzer, director of the Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute.  "We believe they will help answer high-impact research questions and have positive, sustainable effects in the communities in which they’re being implemented."

The Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute is an interdisciplinary effort headquartered in the university’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. The institute was created to help increase the strengths of the university in the area of food and health through the advancement of scientific and public knowledge, and through influencing public policy.

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