2012-2013 Grant Recipients

Last year, Rutgers announced a grant program with awards up to $25,000 to support community-based participatory research in the city. Below are the grant recipients for the July 1, 2012 – June 30, 2013 grant period. 

Community and Backyard Gardening in New Brunswick’s Urban Soils: Providing Locally Grown Food While Protecting Human Health
Rutgers co-director: Michele Bakacs, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences
Community co-director: Lorena Gaibor, Catholic Charities Diocese of Metuchen, Unity Square Partnership

Though New Brunswick residents are actively engaged in community and backyard gardening initiatives, urban soils in the community have elevated levels of lead. To protect human health, Rutgers researchers and Unity Square Partnership will sample local soils with detected elevated lead concentrations. Researchers will conduct greenhouse experiments to determine the metal uptake rates of herbs and produce popular in the community. Following, dietary risk analysis and safe gardening practices will be developed. Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County will deliver this information to New Brunswick gardeners via a lead-safe gardening training program, and Spanish language communication materials will be created.

Partnership for New Brunswick Job Search Solutions
Rutgers co-director: Carl Van Horn, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy
Community co-director: Timothy Timberlake, New Brunswick Public Schools Adult Learning Center; Jane Brady, Middlesex County Workforce Investment Board

The John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development and the New Brunswick Public Schools Adult Learning Center are partnering to improve job search attitudes, behaviors, and employment outcomes for unemployed Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients in New Brunswick. This project includes two innovative career development activities for participants of the TANF Job Search program: a speaker series and an innovative, behavior-based, soft skills (e.g. conflict resolution) training module. The partners will also implement an evidence-based professional development program to enhance the TANF Job Search staff’s capacity to help job seekers return to work and maintain employment.

Increasing Food Security for the Homebound Elderly in New Brunswick
Rutgers co-director: Cara Cuite, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences
Community co-director: Shareka Fitz, Meals on Wheels in Greater New Brunswick

This grant seeks to understand and overcome barriers to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program(SNAP) enrollment among homebound elderly Meals on Wheels in Greater New Brunswick (MOWGNB) clients in an effort to increase their food security. Using semi-structured interviews, researchers will develop SNAP educational materials and a culturally- and age-appropriate protocol for in-home screening and enrollment in SNAP. Rutgers Learning to End Hunger students will then use the protocol to screen and enroll interested, eligible MOWGNB clients, revising the protocol as needed. While this will directly benefit individuals involved in the project by increasing their food budget, the creation and dissemination of the protocol and best practices materials may benefit homebound elderly throughout the county and country.

Transforming New Brunswick Middle School into a School of Character and Excellence: No Alibis, No Excuses, No Exceptions
Rutgers co-director: Maurice Elias, School of Arts and Sciences
Community co-director: Richard Kaplan, New Brunswick Public School District

This grant will aim to strengthen New Brunswick Middle School against dropout, loss of student motivation, and academic failure. Researchers will conduct a school climate assessment among students and staff, evaluate programs currently in place, identify gaps in the programming, and decide on a set of social-emotional skills and core values that the school wants to prioritize in its teaching. The end goal is the creation of a positive, sustainable climate in which students and staff become genuine collaborators in a school of character and academic excellence. The core values identified will be disseminated to the school, parents, and wider community.

The City of New Brunswick Sustainable Safe Streets Initiative
Rutgers co-director: Bob Noland, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy
Community co-director: Glenn Patterson, City of New Brunswick

Livingston Avenue provides a gateway into downtown New Brunswick and the Rutgers community. Like many streets throughout the state, the roadway was over-designed (too many travel lanes) and has become unsafe for other modes—specifically bicyclists and pedestrians. To improve safety and reduce injuries and fatalities, this project will study the feasibility of a “road diet” (reduction in travel lanes) on Livingston Avenue and the creation of bikesharrows on George Street. Researchers will ultimately provide a report to the City of New Brunswick that contains a blueprint for the redesign of Livingston Avenue to become more pedestrian-, bicycle-, and transit-friendly.