Kresge Funds Research on Local Health Impacts of Global Trade

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The second installment of a $1.1 million grant from The Kresge Foundation to the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI) at Occidental College continues to advance research, teaching, and student research focused on the health impacts of global trade, ports and freight transportation.  

The grant has helped launch a two-year national educational and policy campaign to reduce diesel pollution at major U.S. ports and freight facilities by advancing and implementing zero-emissions policies and technologies. The campaign is an effort of UEPI and its Moving Forward Network project, a nationwide network of researchers, community-based organizations and health, labor, and environmental advocates established to build local leadership to advance policy solutions to protect communities near ports and freight transportation corridors. 

Research by Martha Matsuoka, associate professor of urban and environmental policy, and Bob Gottlieb (now UEP professor emeritus) together with USC colleagues Andrea Hricko and Juan De Lara, established the basis for the project by documenting the health, labor, and community impacts from ports and freight transportation and identifying groups organizing to address these impacts. Their work built on earlier research focused on Southern California and the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach -- the country’s largest port complex through which 43 percent of all U.S. imports pass.

"Frontline communities near ports and freight transportation corridors face concentrated levels of air pollution and experience the highest levels of cardiovascular, reproductive, and respiratory health impacts, on top of noise, traffic and other quality-of-life impacts created by 24-hour-a-day operations," says Matsuoka. "Building a national network of community leaders to collaborate with scientists and advocates builds incredible knowledge and capacity to influence policy and improve community health."

"We are pleased to support the ongoing work of UEPI and the Moving Forward Network as an important national network of community-based organizations, researchers, and advocates engaged in the changing the way our freight moves through the country," says David Fukuzawa, Director of Health Programs, The Kresge Foundation. "Through UEPI, the Moving Forward Network has managed to shift global trade and infrastructure discussions to now include considerations of health, environment, community, and workers. The campaign for policy change to require zero emissions technology changes the ways freight will move through the United States and improve health benefits to all."   

Lauren Breynaert ’16 of Sammamish, Wash., a UEP major and researcher for the project, is one of the students who have been studying the community impacts of ports and freight transportation through her coursework. "Our collaboration with the Moving Forward Network allows me to work with people who experience these impacts in their daily lives and help them come together to make real change," Breynaert says. "It is an incredible opportunity to be in a room with the amazing organizers in the field and be part of the work."

Health and community concerns are also the focus of UEPI’s effort to establish a Los Angeles Farm to School Network, designed to help schoolchildren and practitioners get healthy, locally produced fresh fruits and vegetables into school systems and advance garden education throughout the county. Funded by a $390,823 grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the project – now in its second year -- is a localized version of the nationally acclaimed National Farm to School Network that originated at UEPI in the early 2000s.

The CDFA funding will allow UEPI to focus on a building a network that engages regional farmers, Los Angeles County school districts, and a growing number of local nonprofit partners. These include the Social Justice Learning Institute in South LA, Growing Experience in Long Beach, Santa Monica Unified School District, and LA Valley College. Working together on a local level, the Los Angeles Farm to School Network aims to build alliances that improve schoolchildren’s access to fresh fruits and vegetables while supporting a thriving regional food economy.