WINDSOR, ON, November 25, 2022 - - St. Clair College has received $720,000 in social innovation research grants to tackle youth homelessness and school nutrition in Windsor-Essex.
The first of the two projects focusses 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 aimed at the prevention of 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 be used in assisting FSWE in improving and developing local preventative programing that will have a real impact in 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 see several student researchers involved 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 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 most unique qualities about these Research and Innovation projects is the partnerships involved. Local agencies in combination with St. Clair College are tackling 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 been able to leverage 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 involves 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, ultimately, can help to 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 3 years and were funded by NSERC’s College and Community Social Innovation Fund.