Participatory Action Research to Support Healthy Eating

Sara Leidner, UMBC’s Coordinator of Student Life for Student Organizations and Involvement, chairs the BreakingGround Community Program Committee

Sara Leidner 2The BreakingGround Community Program Committee works with UMBC faculty, staff and students creating innovative, educational social change projects. With a small pool of funds made available by Provost Philip Rous, we provide mini-grants that help transform what might otherwise have been one-shot service opportunities into forums for the development of civic agency.

One of the projects we have supported this year is Project Insight, a research project in the Upton/Druid Heights community led by UMBC undergraduate and graduate students. Project Insight’s goal is to gather residents’ perspectives on what helps and hinders their healthy eating within their home, immediate family and neighborhood, and identify ways that the Upton/Druid Heights community and the UMBC community can support older adults in maintaining a healthier diet. Collectively, the research team and community partners (including Equity Matters, the Upton Planning Committee, and the Druid Heights Community Development Corporation) will develop a strategy and external funding proposal based on Project Insight’s findings. Project Insight uses a community-based participatory action research approach, which means community residents and researchers are equal partners in problem-definition, study design, interpretation and communication of results, as well as in identifying and implementing actionable solutions.

In the video below, UMBC graduate students Jessica McNeely and Allyssa Allen sharing some of Project Insight’s challenges and successes:

I’m hoping to share the progress of our other grant recipients in coming weeks!

Contact the author, Sara Leidner, at


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