Seven projects funded by the University to enhance quality of life

By The Daily Illini staff report

Seven projects will be awarded $60,000 through this year’s Interdisciplinary Collaborations in Extension grant competition, through ACES, out of a total of 22 proposals. 

The ICE is a new grant opportunity, funded by ACES and University of Illinois Extension, Shelly Nickols-Richardson, interim associate dean and director of Extension & Outreach in ACES, said in an email.

“Each project is designed to address a challenge in food, environment, economy, community and/or health. The outcomes of these grants are expected to impact individuals, families, farms, businesses, community organizations and/or other groups in Illinois communities in positive ways,” Nickols-Richardson said.

Four of the seven projects are focused directly on the farming and food production industry across Illinois.

The money awarded to each project’s teams can be used over a two-year period, according to ACES News.

Whether it’s nitrogen management on farms through improved training and software, the effect of insects on cover crops or monitoring different strains of root rot and stem blight on soybean crops, these projects chosen for funding by ICE bring awareness to issues in rural life that have previously seen little awareness, research or innovation.

However, not all of these ACES project proposals focus on rural areas. One project proposal seeks to develop tools for urban Chicago stakeholders to identify lead contamination in soil used for food production, as well as guidelines for managing this risk.

Another team focuses on a more traditional suburban concern: pollution and resource management related to lawn care.

Something that’s often seen as a routine, mundane task for homeowners is resource-intensive. The research team intends to set up a lawn care communication campaign in three Illinois communities to track and mitigate water waste and pollution as a result of lawn care, ACES News said.

Another one of the winning teams will analyze the critiqued “Smarter Lunchroom” project.

This program has been implemented in over 29,000 schools across the country, and there have been doubts over whether the program truly impacts consumer behavior and health, according to ACES News. The research project will implement “Smarter Lunchroom” at two local schools as a simulation for the program’s effectiveness.

One project will focus on helping educators address mental health needs of LGBTQ individuals, asking participating educators statewide to survey the unique needs and challenges faced by the Illinois LGBTQ community, which experiences heightened risk for poor mental and physical health based on past research, according to ACES News.

Teams will use the funds provided by ACES and the University to support their respective operating costs of completing the goals and objectives set by each team, Nickols-Richardson said.

“The ICE Grants will support discovery and translation off objective research into applied information and education that will be disseminated throughout University of Illinois Extension,” she said.  

[email protected]