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University of California-San Diego

Superfund Research Program

Community Engagement and Urban Agriculture: Addressing Concerns About Toxicants in Soil, Water and Plants

Project Leader: Keith Pezzoli
Grant Number: P42ES010337
Funding Period: 2005-2023
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

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Project Summary (2017-2022)

The Community Engagement Core (CEC) facilitates bi-directional knowledge exchange between the Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center and local communities to reduce cumulative impacts, improve nutrition and lower health disparities in disadvantaged neighborhoods of San Diego County, Imperial County and the U.S.-Mexico border region including rural and tribal lands. By empowering youth, conducting workshops, collaborating with communities to develop further research and interventions, developing culturally responsive multimedia science communication tools, and modeling innovative best practices in community engagement, the CEC extends the reach and impact of the science and technological innovations emanating from the SRP Center.

The CEC builds the capacity of vulnerable communities in U.S. EPA’s Region 9 and part of Mexico to identify, prioritize and resolve environmental and public health issues related to environmental exposures and Superfund toxicants. The overarching goal is to help prevent toxicant exposure, narrow health disparities, reduce NAFLD and TASH susceptibility, reverse the escalating increase in NAFLD and minimize the risk of TASH, especially in communities that are predominantly Hispanic and Native American.

Utilizing an integrative, Sustainability Science, place-based approach with a strong commitment to civic engagement, the CEC will build on the center’s existing community-university partnerships. Core researchers will work at sites where, for the past five years, they have been directing best practices in community engagement for exposure prevention and intervention. The researchers are co-designing these interventions through bidirectional interaction with their community partners facilitated through their main community partner the Global Action Research Center in San Diego. The CEC will share SRC science and technology through participatory neighborhood-based educational workshops, trainings, citizen science, youth leadership development, and cumulative impact risk communication. The core’s approach is rooted in sustainable urban agricultural practices (community gardens and food forests) and the installation of green infrastructure (e.g., ecological landscape and biotic modifications) designed to manage/harvest stormwater and urban runoff in ways that reduce the amount of, and exposure to, urban toxicant contaminants.

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