Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Population Health and Health Policy

Food Environments and Healthy Eating in Rural Maine [completed]

1/1/2008 - 1/28/2010
Kimberley Fox
Principal Investigator: 
David Hartley

This project investigates food environments in rural areas of Maine that are at-risk of greater rates of childhood obesity 1) to assess how healthful food availability/affordability impacts eating behaviors or create barriers to eating healthy foods among children aged 6-12 and 2) to identify potential policy and programmatic options specific to rural communities for addressing gaps identified. This work builds on previous work to define the built and natural environmental factors that support and limit daily physical activity of youth in rural communities. Utilizing tested food audit tools, we will assess healthfulness and affordability of neighborhood food outlets in 3-4 high-risk rural, low-income communities. Utilizing qualitative methods, we will also recruit students in lower and middle school to provide information about their eating habits and their perceptions of food environments that support or create barriers to healthy eating. This information will be used to develop a conceptual model about environmental and policy characteristics that positively and/or negatively impact healthy eating of youth specifically in rural areas. This project provides a strategic opportunity to increase the School's Public Health capacity and foster collaboration between academic and research programs.

Start Date: 
Tue, 2008-01-01
End Date: 
Thu, 2010-01-28
Legacy Muskie ID: 

Cutler Institute awarded $600,000 to help youth raised in foster system

Marty Zanghi

USM's Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy has been awarded a $600,000 grant to help young people raised in Maine's foster system to prepare for college and the workforce.

The money comes from the Annie E. Casey Foundation as part of a $5.4 million national effort aimed at youth who are homeless or in either the foster care or juvenile justice systems.

"Many of these young people have suffered abuse or trauma and were raised in poverty and neglect," said Marty Zanghi, the Cutler Center's youth development director.

The money -- including an expected $400,000 more in matching funds -- will pay for contracted work with agencies in the target areas, starting with the greater Portland area and Penobscot, Kennebec and Somerset counties.

Nationally and in Maine, only about 3 percent of people who grow up in the foster care system achieve a college degree, he said.

"It's dramatically lower than the rate for the general population," Zanghi said. "It's a horrible outcome."

It doesn't have to be that way, though.

"There are young people that overcome these circumstances," he said. "I know people who have master's degrees and Ph.Ds."

The Casey Foundation's national effort is being called the "Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential" (LEAP) initiative.

The initiative is working on partnerships in Maine and nine other areas: Alaska, Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and New York. In each case, people will adapt two evidence-based models to meet the needs of these youth, including support to address the trauma they may have experienced in their lives.

In Maine, the work will include a pair of successful programs, Jobs for Maine Graduates (JMG) and Jobs for the Future. Results will be carefully tracked, Zanghi said.

After the first year, the program is expected to grow.

"Eventually, the additional help will be available to all children, 14 and over, in the foster care system in the state of Maine," Zanghi said.

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