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Minnesota Public Health Association

Since 1907, MPHA has been dedicated to creating a healthier Minnesota through effective public health practice and engaged citizens. 

Health Equity Committee Meeting

  • October 19, 2023
  • 5:30 PM - 7:30 PM
  • Virtual


October 19th Meeting

WEI’s Approach: Environmental Justice Strategies Needed for Health Equity

This meeting has an exciting presentation and then time for updates, actions, and member networking.

Our presenters are from the Women’s Environmental Institute.

  • Executive Directors, Karen Clark and Jacquelyn Zita
  • Communications & Partnerships Manager, Maxine Groen

Karen Clark will share the "origin story" of the Women's Environmental Institute (founded 20 years ago to challenge the conventional environmental movement to begin prioritizing "environmental justice" (EJ). She will trace its development through community-based organizing in several urban neighborhoods e.g. 1)  in the Phillips Neighborhood where WEI documented the neighborhood's racial and income-based health disparities due to toxic environmental exposures and created one of the first visual "mappings" of those health inequities which led to Minnesota passing the country's first "cumulative impact analysis" law in 2008;  2) in the East Metro Hmong and Latinex communities where WEI began the first documenting of disparate PFC (perfluorochemical) toxic exposures to BIPOC communities; 3) in East Phillips Neighborhood as part of a coalition to create an indoor urban farm development hub at the former Roof 'depot site. WEI chose agricultural and food justice work as one of their primary organizing strategies to address the health inequities of environmental injustice. Jacquelyn Zita (WEI's lead farmer/farm manager) will detail WEI's organic  agricultural strategies to address EJ -- including 1) WEI's urban farming initiatives in the Minneapolis's urban Native American community, 2) WEI's innovative "North Circle" on-line farmer's market program in rural East Central MN, 3) WEI's 5 clinic "Veggie RX project in 3 rural counties, and 4) WEI's newly developing "farm incubator" work with emerging BIPOC and marginalized farmers who are seeking more equitable farmland access as one powerful approach to addressing health inequities in both rural and urban communities. Maxime Groen will discuss WEI's current outreach and development challenges in these arenas and invite your insights.

Presenter Bios:

Karen Clark, WEI co-founder and activist executive director. After earning her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the College of St. Teresa, Karen Clark worked as a public health nurse and OB-GYN nurse practitioner, community organizer, and part-time university instructor. She also earned a master’s from the JFK School at Harvard University and served as a progressive Minnesota State legislator for 38 years, representing three core South Minneapolis neighborhoods. Her passionate dedication to environmental justice is reflected in her legislative, community, and personal priorities.

Professor Jacquelyn Zita is Professor emerita from University of Minnesota enjoying a mid-life career change from professing to becoming the farm manager and Director of Farming Education for the Women’s Environmental Institute (WEI), which she co-founded in 2003. She has over 35 years of college level teaching experience and has nearly two decades of organic farming experience which includes starting from zero to now managing an array of successful farm education classes, a regional Veggie Rx program and an online farmers market in East Central MN along with nearly two decades selling produce at Mill City Farmers market. She has experience in a three-and four-season organically certified farming and aquaponics and is committed to farming as a strategy for environmental justice and climate activism. She understands WEI as a nonprofit organization committed to environmental justice which frames the educational programming and the farming, food and racial justice work of the Institute.

Maxime Groen is a community worker who is passionate about the Great Lakes and supporting socially marginalized communities in defending and attaining formalized rights, land, clean air, and water. She is originally from The Netherlands, grew up in Anishinaabe Aki Michigan and now lives in South Minneapolis, Mni Sota Makoce. She currently works as a Council Assistant with Council Member Nelsie Yang in St. Paul and is loving getting to know the East Side. She has a M.S. in Environmental Justice from University of Michigan and previously worked in the healthcare field. Maxime enjoys playing outdoors, knitting and cross stitching, watching TV, meeting with old and new friends, and adventuring with her partner.

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MPHA Health Equity Committee meetings are scheduled for the 3rd Thursday of the month from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Currently all meetings are virtual. Meetings are open to MPHA members and non-members who want to learn more and take action on advancing health equity in Minnesota. 

For more information about the Health Equity Committee,  please email and we will get back to you! The committee is co-chaired by Jaime Martinez, Erica Fishman, and Austin Wu.

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