Social and Animal Welfare

Social and Animal Welfare Features and Impacts

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted food supply chains across the U.S. It is essential for our food system to provide adequate nourishment to the people and support the livelihood of people who supply food. In response, a multidisciplinary team of researchers and Extension specialists from five universities have partnered to generate science-based knowledge and resources to enhance preparedness of the U.S. food supply chains for future disruptions. 

A collaborative research project has led to the creation of the Culturally Enriched Communities website, which fuses interdisciplinary research findings with design-related best practices that can be used to eliminate health, income and educational racial disparities and strengthen the economic and cultural vitality of neighborhoods, cities, regions and states.

Originally launched in 2017, the Parentopia Project involves the design of a web-based application that complements parent learning and engagement through Minnesota’s ECFE program. As a closed platform, Parentopia.org can promote both class specific and site-wide discussion, private messaging, and general program information. In more recent years, the platform has expanded to additional school districts and enabled research with parents and staff to design technology as a hybrid for face-to-face interactions. Research has also identified the specific learning benefits to parents meeting in consistent groups and forming networks rich in social capital.

Growing North Minneapolis is a community-driven program which aims to build food, environmental, social and cognitive justice through sustainable urban growing and greening. Learning and career development are experiential and contextualized in real-world experiences related to the FEW nexus. Urban youth, predominantly of color and low socioeconomic status, are hired through a local workforce development program, and work together with UMN undergraduates and North Minneapolis community mentors to form intergenerational communities of practice.

Previously, federal regulations prevented the study of cannabinoids and other illicit drugs, which made it difficult or even impossible to study the effects of these types of compounds. Notably, the FDA advises against the use of CBD, tetrahydrocannabinol, and marijuana during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, yet marijuana use during pregnancy is on the rise, likely because of perceived limited risks and changing social norms. A team of researchers at the UMN set out to close knowledge gaps related to long-term CBD safety and impacts by conducting a first-of-its-kind lab study on mice.

Early in the pandemic, concerns about N95 respirator shortages dominated the headlines around the world and there was an immediate need for safe alternatives that could also be quickly and effectively mass produced. But as supply chains stabilized, UMN researchers could focus on developing masks that not only block the virus but effectively kill it on contact. 

In 2012, UMN providers and researchers from the School of Public Health, Academic Health Center (Office of Emergency Preparedness), and Department of Family Social Science partnered with colleagues at the Minnesota Department of Health to develop an innovative self-care app for emergency responders in the field. In early 2020, they again refined the app as a simplified in-the-field tool for first responders engaged in responding to the COVID-19 epidemic.

Over the last two years, researchers at the UMN have been working with several Minnesota agencies to facilitate surveillance and enhance our understanding of the risk for CWD spreading — a key concern for Minnesota legislators. In Minnesota, these partners include the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Minnesota Board of Animal Health (BAH), Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, several tribal natural resources agencies around the state and Extension specialists.

Previously, UMN researchers developed an anaerobic digester that handled another kind of waste — pig manure — but Twin Cities-based food bank Second Harvest Heartland was interested in seeing if such a system could help with the 1,500 tons of food waste, they discard to the tune of $200,000 annually.

Over the past five years, UMN researchers in the College of Veterinary Medicine have spearheaded a project that selects cows for dry cow therapy. Selective dry cow therapy (SDCT) is an approach whereby only those cows or quarters with a known or suspected intramammary infection are treated with antibiotics at dry off. 

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