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BW awarded AmeriCorps grant to promote food security in Cleveland

Baldwin Wallace University has earned state AmeriCorps grant funding, administered by ServeOhio, to support an ongoing effort to reduce food insecurity in underserved Cleveland communities, giving BW students a chance for paid, hands-on experience in a public health community partnership.

BW's Center for Health Disparities Research and Education will apply the grant to support 12 paid, part-time community health positions devoted to improving food security, nutritional health and overall health status of Cleveland residents.

Serve Ohio logoThe BW-led AmeriCorps program, known as Community Health and Nutrition Guided Empowerment through Integration of Navigators in Cleveland (or CHANGE, INC), supports a collaborative between The MetroHealth System, Metro-West Community Development Organization and Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation.

Empowering community members

grocery store produce sectionSix BW students will be paired with six community members - from the Old Brooklyn and Clark-Fulton neighborhoods - and will serve as Community Health and Empowerment Navigators (CHENs) to improve the food security of the communities' most vulnerable residents.

"The AmeriCorps grant allows us to leverage resources within the university and the Cleveland communities to serve those in need," said Dr. Swagata Banik, dean of the BW Office of Graduate Studies & Research and director of the BW Center for Health Disparities Research and Education.

"Community members play a vital role in promoting healthy food, wellness, economic resources and community vitality," Banik continued. "But those living in disadvantaged communities often need more support to overcome additional barriers to positive change, such as lack of awareness or access issues."

Resources to build a grassroots strategy

food bank signAmeriCorps is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency for volunteering, service and civic engagement.

The grant awarded by ServeOhio, Ohio's governor-appointed commission on service and volunteerism, will total more than $220,000 for the 2020-2021 program year. A CNCS investment of close to $108,000 will be matched with nearly $73,000 in public funding and $40,000 in private funding. Additionally, upon the successful completion of their service, the AmeriCorps members will be eligible for more than $37,000 in education awards to pay for future higher education expenses or to pay back student loans.

The AmeriCorps grant, along with a Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge grant recently awarded to BW by the American Public Health Association and the Aetna Foundation, allows BW to build a grassroots-level strategy and capacity for addressing food insecurity in Cleveland.

About BW program leaders

Dr. Banik serves as the principal investigator of the AmeriCorps grant. Dr. Laura Hopkins, assistant professor in the BW Department of Public Health & Prevention Sciences, is co-investigator on the project. Valerie Beutel serves as the director of the program.

To learn more about the BW CHANGE, INC AmeriCorps program or apply to be an AmeriCorps member, contact Beutel at

About ServeOhio

ServeOhio, Ohio's governor-appointed commission on service and volunteerism, strengthens Ohio communities through AmeriCorps and volunteer engagement. Through programs and initiatives funded and supported by ServeOhio, thousands of Ohioans of all ages engage in and are recognized for their service. Interested participants can learn more about ServeOhio at or on Facebook and Twitter.

About AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency for volunteering, service and civic engagement. The agency engages millions of Americans in citizen service through its AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs and leads the nation's volunteering and service efforts. For more information, visit

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