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Friday, June 14, 2024
The Observer

Breakfast series connects South Bend, students

The Center for Social Concerns (CSC) is hosting a way for South Bend community partners, students and faculty to collaborate in a much more casual setting: breakfast.

The breakfast series, called “Food for Thought Breakfast Series: Healthy Neighborhoods,” occurs four times over the academic year, Danielle Wood, assistant director for community-based research and impact at the CSC, said. The second breakfast of this academic year is Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Near Northwest Neighborhood. Wood said the breakfast series was launched three years ago.

“We need more informal time, non-programmed time for networking,” she said. “This came out of me thinking of ‘Well, what would be a way that would be 90 percent the networking and 10 percent more formal?’”

Wood said she was awarded a one-year grant to start the breakfast series. After the year was over, the organizations involved in the series wanted to keep the event going. Today, she said, the event is fully funded by the partners.

“The primary aim of the event since its inception was to build thicker networks into the community and across the different academic institutions for shared community problem-solving with organizations,” Wood said.

Heidi Beidinger-Burnett, a faculty member at the Eck Institute for Global Health, will be one of the discussion leaders this Wednesday. Beidinger-Burnett helps run lead poisoning prevention activities on behalf of a group of Notre Dame faculty.

“The most important thing is that people are in the know,” she said. “The reason that this is so critically important to me is because lead poisoning is forever damaging for children. Even at very, very low exposure rates, [for] children’s neurological and physiological systems … there can be lifelong damage.”

Beidinger-Burnett said this breakfast is the cross-section of community members, leaders and organizations in South Bend. The event, she said, acts as an opportunity to talk about what is working in the community as well as the challenges it faces.

“There is a tremendous amount of value of bringing people together and collaborating that way,” Beidinger-Burnett said. “We’re all networking trying to improve the quality of life of people that live in South Bend and St. Joseph County.”

To further emphasize the goal of strengthening the local community, all the food during the breakfast is from local businesses, Wood said.

“We try to locally source all the food as much as possible because it’s part of the whole notion of building the local economy,” she said.

Students who are thinking about doing a thesis or capstone project are welcome to come to the breakfast, Wood said. The event is not meant to be informative, she said, but rather, provide a platform for people to form partnerships with others interested community-based research.

“It creates partnerships for solving complex problems better,” she said. “A community partner is an educator as much as your faculty member is. They can help you frame your topic meaningfully. You don’t think of your topic in a vacuum, you think of it in collaboration with those that might use the information.

“The value of community based research is that it’s a partnership and you get better information and better use of your information when you’re done because of it.”