September 5, 2019

Students win $25,000 from Ford Fund for Auntie Na’s nutrition project

The Ford Motor Company Fund has selected Wayne State University to receive a Ford College Community Challenge grant of $25,000 for a nutrition project led by School of Medicine students with the Auntie Na’s Student Organization.

Ford College Community Challenge, or C3, is an innovative grant-making initiative designed to inspire students at higher education organizations to catalyze community-building projects focused on addressing pressing local needs.

ANSO will use the funds to continue the sustainable community health care work of Sonia Brown, also known as Auntie Na. Auntie Na’s Village is a nonprofit located on Yellowstone Street in Detroit’s Nardin Park neighborhood that addresses the needs of low-income families burdened by chronic diseases. It originated in the colorful two-story home owned Brown that has been in one family for six generations and now includes a medical clinic run by School of Medicine students, an education house for school-aged children and nutrition literacy programming for residents.

tool shed
Medical students Aneesh Hehr, left, and Dhruvil Patel, who recently built a tool shed to store garden equipment, are part of the Auntie Na's Student Organization and, along with classmate Amer Tamr, will lead the Ford Fund grant project efforts. 

The students’ three-phase, one-year goal is to develop the village by expanding the nutrition literacy component in the community through sustainable garden practices. The grant will create a self-sustainable system that provides food security while promoting food consumption through a new on-site urban garden intended to serve as a teaching tool for healthy eating.

First, the group will work to expand the Healthy Detroit Corner Store program to two additional stores. The program works with a local store to provide patrons with health screenings and one-time funds for produce purchases, in turn increasing patron demand for healthy produce. Next, the students will expand the program’s nutrition education initiatives to further increase the demand for produce. Finally, they will establish a community garden to feed that the demand.

The students plan to reach out to other WSU student organizations to run cooking classes, teach gardening to residents and more.

“This gives other organizations a great platform to test if what they’re doing works,” said William Banks, a Class of 2022 M.D. candidate and president of Auntie Na’s Student Organization.

The one-year project will run through August 2020.

“Education and community engagement are important cornerstones of Ford Fund’s mission to strengthen communities and make people’s lives better,” said Farah Harb, global education analyst for Ford Fund. “The students participating in this unique program will learn what leadership is all about as they develop essential skills to help the city continue moving forward in the future.”

Ford Fund awarded 10 C3 grants this year, including one to the Detroit Biodiversity Network, another Wayne State student organization that utilizes existing hydrology research to incorporate green stormwater infrastructure to alleviate the impact of flooded basements, a common problem in many metropolitan Detroit neighborhoods.

As the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company, Ford Fund’s mission is to strengthen communities and help make people’s lives better. Working with dealers and nonprofit partners in more than 60 countries, Ford Fund provides access to opportunities and resources that help people reach their full potential. Since 1949, Ford Fund has invested more than $2 billion in programs that support education, promote safe driving, enrich community life and encourage employee volunteering. For more information, visit www.fundfund.org .