WEI’s East Metro EJEAC Project is actively establishing deeper collaborations, writing, convening EJEAC Steering Committee members, and working to obtain preliminary scientific research data in the East Metro. Though truly challenged by budget restraints, with the support of a Blue Cross Blue Shield sustainability grant, we have had some important successes:
1)U of MN Health Science Professor Matt Simcik joined with WEI to establish an on-going collaboration to do the long sought for scientific research data on potential PFC soil contamination for Hmong farmers in the East Metro. Working as a partner with the EJEAC Steering Committee, Simcik went with us to get soil and vegetation samples to establish more in-depth preliminary data needed for a USDA grant proposal which we were invited to jointly submit. In addition, Dr. Vincent Garry, U of M Professor Emeritus and long time WEI supporter, joined us for an on-site visit to provide test-site mapping and research advice. 2) We were invited to further develop our relationship with the MN Dept. of Agriculture in its work on immigrant farming issues. Suyapa Miranda, East Metro EJEAC’s Organizer/Coordinator is attending monthly breakfast get-togethers for various immigrant farming allies to network, partner, and share information. 3) Another highlight is our growing participation in St. Paul’s East Side Prosperity Campaign. WEI has been recruited to engage in its Community Health and Wellness Project because of our environmental justice background related to soil toxicology and urban farming. The East Side Prosperity Campaign envisions a multi-cultural and economically diverse East Side where individuals, families, businesses, institutions, and organizations prosper in positive relations with each other, the natural built environment, and the wider metro area. Their action plan includes four strategic vision areas: Community Building and Civic Engagement; Community Wealth and Prosperity; Community Education and Learning; and Community Health and Wellness. Eight initial projects have been identified and are being granted seed money for implementation: youth leadership, multicultural events, an economic engine to promote local buying and investments, a clean energy co-operative, a tutoring partnership, identifying community members to become community education teachers, bringing community gardening to scale, and access to health care and disease prevention. The Prosperity Campaign, originally funded by the Otto Bremer Foundation and developed as a program of East Side Neighborhood Development Company, began by meeting with individuals to assess their needs and match them with programs to help them accomplish their goals.