CHIRP Grant awarded to eight community groups in Detroit

August 18, 2011

DETROIT – The Child Health Incubator Research Project (CHIRP) is a partnership of eight organizations working to challenge the food myths and social and economic realities that threaten to undermine the health and well-being of young children in Detroit. Members include Building Movement Project, Catherine Ferguson Academy, Creative

Community Pathways, Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Feedom Freedom Growers and People’s Kitchen Detroit and Oakland University’s Department of Psychology at Riverview Institute in Detroit.

CHIRP is supported by a five year $4.5 million grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Childhood Obesity Prevention Program.

CHIRP will create a vibrant learning community with innovative programming rooted in a holistic, justice-centered approach to eliminating childhood obesity in our community by drawing on members’ expertise in diverse areas such as environmental and food justice, food security/sovereignty, community development and self-determination, family and child development and achievement, nutrition and healthy child-friendly food preparation, critical media literacy and production.

“Typical strategies to address childhood obesity presume access to certain resources and information, that standardized interventions will be effective and that health can be defined by standardized measures without regard to culture, economic or social circumstances. In Detroit, we know otherwise,” said Principle Investigator and Project Director, Kerry Vachta of Oakland University.
“We know our children don’t always have access to what some communities may take for granted and that parents don’t always have the same options. But we also know there are resources here – from urban farms that provide affordable access to fresh organic produce to a plethora of child-centered institutions and extensive community and family support networks. Those resources create an entirely different potential health landscape for Detroit’s children than even many Detroiters are aware of.”

The goals of CHIRP are to surface and harness those resources; transform existing assumptions among and about Detroit families regarding food and health; recognize and challenge the inequitable distribution of risks and resources that plays such a critical role in the health of Detroit’s children; ensure every Detroit family has access to the best information, activities and resources to support healthy children; and to share what we learn locally and with communities across the nation in similar circumstances.

To that end, the group will also create a Handbook documenting the effective activities for distribution locally and nationally. An interactive map of the city will allow parents to enter a location and learn about resources that can support their efforts to create a healthy lifestyle for their children in their own neighborhood.

As Lottie Spady, Associate Director of East Michigan Environmental Action Council, explains, “We have so many pressures and so many demands that it’s important to learn how to integrate this information into our day-to-day lives.

“Somehow we’ve been convinced that maintaining that pace and our other obligations is more important than our health. We need to challenge those notions about what our priorities should be, about what we eat and how we live. To do that, we have to challenge what the media tells us about what is important and what is in the food we’re eating and feeding to our kids!”

Angela Newsom, Project Director for People’s Kitchen Detroit, points out, “Many of those ideas are myths – we can provide healthful food for our children and families in no more time than it takes to pick up fast food – and often at lower cost!”

Mrs. Newsom is a local chef who will help Detroit parents develop the knowledge and skills to create healthy, child-friendly daily meals. Ms. Spady’s program activities will foster critical awareness of the messages in popular media about food and health and empower young people to create their own media that tells their own food stories. Others will help young children and their parents develop skills to grow their own fresh produce, engage teens in mentoring to alter consumption preferences and trends among both teens and younger children, and improve access to fresh produce through Detroit’s food pantries.