Inaugural Florence Stier Research Development Award announced

Child Welfare Education and Research Programs Research Assistant Professor Mary Elizabeth Rauktis will receive the inaugural Florence Stier Research Development Award for her research proposal: Animal ownership in food-insecure households:  Is there a relationship between human and animal food insecurity?

The Florence Stier Research Development Award is an endowment that has been provided to the University of Pittsburgh School Of Social Work to support faculty research and development with a 2-year $15,000 research award.

Rauktis’ previous survey of food bank/pantry staff and volunteers found that the staff and volunteers believe that clients use pantry food to feed their animals when pet food is not available.  In other words, having pet food available at the food bank/ pantry means that humans are more likely to eat the food intended for them. However, this finding was limited in that it did not study the primary source—the users of the food pantries. 

With this new award, Rauktis will study the problem of trans-species hunger by surveying and interviewing the users of food bank/pantries services, as well as studying the perceived benefits of pet-ownership for low-income households. 

Research studies have observed positive mental and physical health benefits such as less surgical pain, reduced cardiac risk and better social functioning for children with autism with exposure to animals or animal ownership. Additionally, animals provide assistance and companionship to individuals with disabilities and the elderly, two groups who benefit from companionship but may be least able to afford to feed their animals due to fixed incomes. 

Rauktis will work with both Animal Friends and the Pittsburgh Greater Community Food Bank to collect data, and the University Center for Social and Urban Research for consultation with setting up the mobile hotspot and technology, transcription of interviews and survey design.

In addition to Rauktis, Principal Investigator for Child Welfare Education and Research Programs, Clinical Associate Professor Helen Cahalane will collaborate in data collection activities, analysis and writing, and both undergraduate and MSW students will assist with data collection, literature reviews, and other research activities.

About Florence Stier

Florence Ray Stier (1917-2011) received her MSW from the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Social in 1941. In 1965, Stier joined the faculty of the University Of Washington School Of Social Work where she taught and mentored students for 22 years. While there, Stier developed the Community Organization track in the graduate social work program. The national Council on Social Work Education recognized Florence for her role as a mentor to social work students and graduates. Stier received a Bachelor's Degree from Chatham College in 1939, and a PhD in Social Work from Columbia University in 1967. Her gift to the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Social Work was given to promote faculty research and development.