St. Clair College has received $720,000 in social innovation research grants to tackle youth homelessness and school nutrition in Windsor-Essex.
The first two projects focus on youth experiencing homelessness, partnering with Family Services Windsor-Essex (FSWE). Lead Researcher Dr. Kyle Jackson, Professor in the Honours Bachelor of Applied Arts in Social Justice and Legal Studies program at St. Clair College, explains that the research will develop better methods to make contact with and estimate this hard-to-reach population. It will also conduct in-depth interviews with youth experiencing homelessness aimed at better understanding their lived experiences. "Ultimately, this will enable us to develop unique programming to prevent homelessness before it begins in the first place," said Jackson.
SCC faculty and student researchers are utilizing a new sampling method and interviews to gather data on youth experiencing homelessness to assist FSWE in improving and developing local preventative programing that will impact our community. The agency says that providing evidence-based research is critical in ensuring their agency offers impactful programming. "Our agency is excited to partner with St. Clair College on this research and to involve student researchers in this work," said FSWE Executive Director Joyce Zuk.
The research team includes Dr. Kyle Jackson, Elizabeth Strutt-MacLeod (Coordinator of the Social Justice and Legal Studies degree at St. Clair College), and Colleen Mitchell from St. Clair College.
The second project, focusing on school nutrition, involves three partners: the Ontario Student Nutrition Program Southwest Region (locally run by the VON), AgScape, which provides food literacy programs and resources to students, and ProsperUs.
The project will see researchers co-develop and evaluate the impact of a universal school nutrition program in target neighbourhoods. "We see this project as part of a bigger initiative happening across the province that promotes health and a universal program across Canada. We are seeking to capitalize on the excellent work already being done in our area and the agriculture resources that we have to offer, to really make our area a model for other communities," says the project's Lead Researcher, Dr. Kathryn Markham-Petro. According to Danielle Findlay, Supervisor of Community Relations with the Ontario Student Nutrition Program (OSNP), "it's fantastic timing for this project. The federal government has just launched consultations on a pan-Canadian school food policy, and we hope to have an opportunity to showcase this model. We are excited to be a part of this multi-sectoral collaboration, and we look forward to the positive outcomes the integration of food literacy and increased local product will bring to existing programming."
The research team includes Dr. Kathryn Markham-Petro, Alexandra Frabotta, and Annamaria Lopez from St. Clair College.
"We are all so excited about these projects for many reasons. These grants will involve several student researchers throughout the project lifecycles - predominately those from St. Clair College's School of Community Studies - getting them involved with our community and giving them invaluable, practical experience. Plus, these projects are going to have real, tangible benefits that will directly impact the health and well-being of our most vulnerable," says the Program Manager of Research and Innovation at St. Clair College, Beckie Berlasty.
School of Community Studies Chair, Dr. Stephanie DeFranceschi, shares this excitement: "Just as our School name indicates, we are all about serving the needs of our community, especially the vulnerable sector. With the School of Community Studies at the research table, this allows us to continue to follow St. Clair College's mission of transforming lives and strengthening our community."
"One of the unique qualities of these Research and Innovation projects is the partnerships involved. In combination with St. Clair College, local agencies tackle community-level challenges head-on. One of those integral partnerships is with WE-SPARK Health Institute. Grants such as these have opened doors for student conferencing opportunities, and we've leveraged a number of WE-SPARK grants to pursue national funding. It is amazing to see what our community can achieve when working in unison," says Berlasty.
"Institutionally, research and development often involve engineering and manufacturing advancements, and that's exciting. But work in the social sciences – on matters that truly affect the quality of life of members of our community – may be the most important and rewarding work done by our faculty and students," said St. Clair College President Patti France. "If this research can help alleviate these youth-related issues, it will be a tribute to both our work and to WE-SPARK's foresight."
The two research grants were awarded $360,000 each over three years and funded by NSERC's College and Community Social Innovation Fund.
FSWE is a multi-service not-for-profit, charitable community agency providing services throughout Windsor and Essex County. The agency's mandate includes basic needs and overall wellness. FSWE is the lead agency responding to homelessness in Windsor-Essex. The agency's program includes homelessness outreach, housing acquisition and ongoing support to maintain housing. The organization offers mental health counselling, and financial management supports to help people build resiliency.)
The Ontario Student Nutrition Program – Southwest Region (OSNP-SW) administers funding and provides program support to over 480 schools across Southwestern Ontario. 95 of the schools supported by OSNP are in Windsor and Essex County. OSNP-Southwest is a program housed within the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON), Windsor-Essex site. VON is 1 of 14 Lead Agencies part of the provincial body Student Nutrition Ontario (SNO) that administers provincial grant funds to support the development and implementation of healthy breakfasts, snacks, and at times, lunch programs across the province.OSNP invests in evidence-based research on health and academic outcomes associated with programs, builds and cultivates strong relationships between school programs and community partners and supports local food procurement strategies.
ProsperUs is a collective impact partnership comprised of non-profit, government, health care, education, labour, business, and inspired community members, including parents and youth. These partners have a shared vision of a prosperous Windsor-Essex County where all children and youth have the support they need to succeed – from Cradle to Career. The Cradle to Career (C2C) approach is a proven strategy that focuses on systems change to ensure young people have wrap-around support from birth until they enter the workforce. Our work is focused on priority neighbourhoods in Windsor and Essex County, where data tell us young people face the greatest barriers to long-term success, including Downtown Windsor, West Windsor and Leamington. United Way/Centraide Windsor-Essex County is the backbone organization for ProsperUs, guiding the work of convening, facilitating, and supporting community partners to drive results.
AgScape is a charitable organization focused on bringing agriculture and food education to Ontario educators and students. AgScape's engaging programs and resources expand students' understanding of the modern food system to help them make informed decisions about the foods they eat, their choices, and the vast career opportunities available to them.
About WE-SPARK Health Institute
WE-SPARK Health Institute is a partnership supported by Erie Shores HealthCare, Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, St. Clair College, the University of Windsor and Windsor Regional Hospital designed to take healthcare to the next level through research.