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Faculty members from a cross section of disciplines on campus are tackling the issues of local hunger and academic success for foster children in North Carolina, thanks to funding from the 2016 C. Felix Harvey Award to Advance Institutional Priorities.
The new endeavor involves researchers in the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and from UNC’s schools of medicine, education and social work. Several community partners also are involved in the effort, which is being led by Alice Ammerman ’82 (MPH, ’09 DRPH), director of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and professor of nutrition in UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health and in the medical school.
The coalition aims to increase access to healthy food for low-income consumers while also providing economic opportunities for local farmers and retailers, Ammerman said. “The project will develop a sales model with dual price points — full price or slightly higher at an upscale food store and significantly reduced prices at four small community grocery stores.”
The community partners’ group includes Weaver Street Market, a consumer-owned cooperative food store; Seal the Seasons, whose CEO, Patrick Mateer ’15, helped create the start-up as a student; and Farmer Foodshare, a nonprofit based in Durham that works to make fresh, local food more available and promote economically sustainable farming. They plan to use local food production facilities and seasonally available local food to create healthy frozen meals that will be offered for sale at local markets. (Seal the Seasons was featured in the Review in July/August 2016, “The Big Chill,” as part of the magazine’s third annual food issue.)
The Harvey Award was endowed in 2007 with a $2 million commitment from C. Felix Harvey III ’43, longtime chair of Harvey Enterprises & Affiliates and founder of the Little Bank Inc., both in Kinston, and his family. Harvey, who died in 2014, was among five generations of Harveys to have earned degrees from Carolina.
This year, with funding from the McNairy Foundation and the Harvey Award endowment, a second award aims to develop a program to address the academic needs of children in foster care. The team tapped to create that program includes Dr. Molly Berkoff, an associate professor of pediatrics; Robert Martinez Jr., an assistant professor in UNC’s School of Education; and Laura Phipps, a clinical assistant professor in UNC’s School of Social Work in the Jordan Institute for Families.
In North Carolina, there are no training tools focused on the specific academic needs of foster children. This second team has envisioned an online training toolkit to guide child welfare social workers in assisting foster care children and advocating for them. Some studies show that less than 60 percent of students in foster care finish high school and, among those who do, that only 3 percent pursue postsecondary education.