WA proposal developed by Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) students to address food insecurity has been awarded a $100,000 American Heart Association grant.

The two-year grant is through the American Heart Association’s first EmPOWERED to Serve Urban Health Accelerator – HBCU Healthy Community Challenge Showcase. WSSU was selected by a panel of judges at a showcase at the International Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro on Monday, April 29. 

- Advertisement -

Through the grant, WSSU will partner with two existing community initiatives to mobilize and connect campus and community resources to address food insecurity in Winston-Salem.

“This American Heart Association EmPOWERED grant is a way for us to make a difference in our community immediately,” said Dr. Melicia Whitt-Glover, executive director of WSSU’s Center of Excellence for the Elimination of Healthcare Disparities (CEEHD), one of two faculty leads on the proposal.

WSSU’s proposal was one of two selected for the grant from 19 HBCU proposals.

“We’re very proud that our project was selected,” said Dr. Cynthia Williams-Brown, chair and associate professor of the Department of Health, Physical Education and Sport Studies (HPSS), also a faculty lead on the project. “This student-led project ties into existing initiatives and speaks to our role in the community.”

WSSU students Diamond Bynum, senior, healthcare management; Taylor Daniels, junior, exercise science; Dontae Moore, senior, healthcare management; and Taylor Redfearn, sophomore, sport management, helped develop the proposal. Marian Anderson-Booker, research project coordinator for HPSS; Rochelle Blakeney, program coordinator for CEEHD; and Aaron Jackson, coordinator of the Rams Know H.O.W. Mobile Unit, also supported the proposal.

Redfearn, who presented WSSU’s proposal during the showcase, said Winston-Salem has about 21 food deserts, areas that are void of healthy food options. The issue predominately impacts residents in the minority communities around the university, she said.

“We want every child to have access to healthy food and every child to not go home hungry,” Redfearn said.

WSSU’s proposal aims will tackle food insecurity through:

  • Partnering with Michael Banner and Island CultureZ to introduce urban gardening and entrepreneurship to residents of East Winston.
  • Helping to expand the HPSS-developed Rams Fitness Academy, which combats childhood obesity by providing after-school and summer programs for children that focus on physical activity and nutrition education. The camp will be expanded to also introduce students to urban gardening and include economic mobility component.
  • Creating an on-campus greenhouse to introduce urban farming and entrepreneurship to students on campus.


The showcase was broadcast live through #RolandMartinUnfiltered. Martin, award-winning journalist and writer, was the master of ceremonies for the event.

The funding for the American Heart Association’s EmPOWERED to Serve Urban Health Accelerator – HBCU Community Wellness Challenge was made possible by the Barbara Houston Historically Black Colleges and Universities Legacy Award and through the support of John Houston III.

“Every member of our community should be able to achieve well-being supported by the places they live, learn, work, pray, and heal,” said Jeremy Beauchamp, Executive Vice President, American Heart Association, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate. “We are excited to work alongside HBCUs to increase the opportunity for all of our neighbors to live longer, healthier lives.”

The EmPOWERED to Serve Urban Health Accelerator HBCU Leadership Summit was developed to address critical needs and social issues – in and around campuses – that impact the ability of individuals to attain optimal health. Earlier this year, the American Heart Association called on HBCUs from Maryland, DC, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina to help solve some of today’s most complex problems including removing social and societal barriers to health. 

WSSU was one of five HBCUs finalists to present at the showcase. Charlotte’s Johnson C. Smith University was the other winner.

Also during the showcase, students from WSSU’s Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity provided an overview of the stepping tradition for African American fraternities, and Martin interviewed WSSU Chancellor Elwood L. Robinson live during event.

About Winston-Salem State University
Winston-Salem State University fosters the creative thinking, analytical problem-solving, and depth of character needed to transform the world. Rooted in liberal education, WSSU’s curriculum prepares students to be thought leaders who have the skills and knowledge needed to develop innovative solutions to complex problems. Founded in 1892, WSSU is a historically Black constituent institution of the University of North Carolina with a rich tradition of contributing to the social, cultural, intellectual, and economic growth of North Carolina, the region and beyond. Guided by the motto, “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve,” WSSU develops leaders who advance social justice by serving the world with compassion and commitment.

 ##
Media Contact:
 Jay Davis, 336-750-3152 or 954-449-5376

Photo: Jeremy Beauchamp (left), EVP of the American Heart Association Mid-Atlantic Affiliate, presents Winston-Salem State with a $100,000 grant . WSSU was represented by (from left) WSSU Chancellor Elwood L. Robinson, Taylor Redfearn, Cynthia Williams-Brown, Marian Anderson-Booker, Melicia Whitt-Glover and WSSU Provost Anthony Graham.