Dr. Carmen Samuel-Hodge: Teacher, Mentor and Dedicated Researcher

The UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health recently featured Dr. Carmen Samuel-Hodge, the co-principal investigator of our Applied Research Project, CHANGE, and the Center’s Evaluation Core lead, as part of their “Five Questions” series. Click here to learn more about Carmen’s reasons for coming to the United States to get her PhD, how she serves as a role model for new researchers of color, and how she’s a little overdue on a promise she made to her husband years ago. We are so proud to have her on our team at HPDP!

Go NAPSACC Launches Oral Health Tools to Assist Child Care Providers

Tooth decay, the most common chronic childhood disease, can affect overall health.

Chapel Hill, NC – UNC Chapel Hill’s Go NAPSACC (GNS) announces an addition to its online program to help child care providers promote children’s health. In a partnership with experts in public health and pediatric dentistry, the team takes aim at one of the most common chronic diseases in young children: tooth decay. Tooth decay is harmful to children’s health, wellbeing, and ability to learn. With the newly created Oral Health tools, Go NAPSACC can now help child care programs tackle this widespread, but preventable disease.

Go NAPSACC has a decade of experience improving the care of children in early childhood education. GNS was originally developed by a team of UNC-Chapel Hill researchers in partnership with the North Carolina Division of Public Health. Experts in nutrition and pediatric dentistry from both of these organizations came together to develop the new oral health tools. These tools will help ECE programs offer tooth brushing with appropriate fluoride toothpaste, serve fewer sugary foods and beverages, and provide more oral health education to children and families. Go NAPSACC is available to ECE programs in NC and five other states.

Proper dental care and healthy eating habits are critical to early childhood health.   Unfortunately, one in five children aged 2 to 5 years have cavities, and almost half of these go untreated.   “It is essential that all families with young children learn healthy dental habits,” says Dr. Gary Rozier, DDS, Research Professor with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health. “Our past work has shown the important role that child care providers can play in supporting children’s oral health. With Go NAPSACC, the hope is to reach more child care programs across the state and nation.”

Interested child care providers can find the Oral Health and other self assessments at www.gonapsacc.org/resources/nap-sacc-materials

# # #

About Go NAPSACC: gonapsacc.org is an easy-to-use online toolkit for early care and education programs interested in building healthy eating and physical activity habits in children. Go NAPSACC is based on a set of best practices that stem from the latest research and guidelines in the field. The project is based at the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, a Prevention Research Center funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Programs use Go NAPSACC to improve their practices, policies, and environments and meet these best practices.  gonapsacc.org has been made possible through support from the BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina Foundation (bcbsncfoundation.org).

For inquiries:

Ellie Morris, Manager of Outreach & Education

(919) 966-2360


UNC study shows need for increased support to North Carolina childcare workers

CHAPEL HILL- Teaching in childcare is a rewarding and important job, yet 42% of the North Carolina adults who provide childcare live below the national poverty threshold, 66% fight obesity, and 36% struggle with depression.  A recent study from UNC-Chapel Hill (UNC) researchers published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that the adults who care for North Carolina’s small children have challenges at work.

Researchers from UNC’s Caring and Reaching for Health (CARE) worksite wellness program analyzed health data for 674 childcare workers across seven counties in North Carolina as they began a program to analyze the health and working conditions of childcare workers. CARE is an initiative of the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.

The CARE team found that 66% of childcare providers qualified as obese, and often they reported that they eat less than half of the USDA recommended level of fruits and vegetables in a day.  Complicating the situation even further, more than a third of the providers CARE assessed (36.1%) suffered symptoms of depression.

“The women who work at childcare centers are doing one of the most important jobs in our state, and many young children spend most of their waking hours in childcare” said Dianne Ward, Director of the UNC Children’s Healthy Weight Research Group, professor of nutrition in the Gillings School of Global Public Health and one of the study’s principal investigators. “Our findings underscore the importance of providing workers with tools and resources to lead healthier lives.”

Ward and Linnan

Dianne Ward, EdD, and Laura Linnan, ScD, Co-Principal Investigators of the CARE Study

Nearly half the people who care for North Carolina’s children when their parents are unavailable have incomes at or below the national poverty threshold for a family of three; 42% of workers in the study had a household income of less than $20,000 per year.

“Childcare providers are doubly stressed by low wages and demanding jobs. Focusing on the health of childcare workers is long overdue,” said Laura Linnan, ScD, lead author of the paper, co-principal investigator of the study and professor of health behavior at Gillings.  “We believe these results represent an important call to action for researchers, policy makers and community leaders who can advocate for living wages and access to more health-related programs at work for these important members of the workforce.”

CARE is a 5-year study which began in 2015 and uses a web-based tracking system to assist childcare workers set goals and monitor their physical activity. The study also provides resources to help workers eat healthier, quit smoking, and improve their sleeping habits. Furthermore, CARE research staff work with center directors to facilitate the adoption and implementation of workplace health and safety programs, policies, and supports to bolster the health and well-being of workers at participating centers. The research team will learn if these efforts to improve health behaviors lead to better health outcomes overall for participants in the study.  The study included participants from Cumberland, Rowan, Forsyth, Davidson, Franklin, Granville, and Vance counties.

Following baseline data collection, workers participate in a 6-month long workplace health and safety promotion program or an alternate financial health program.  The UNC team will publish results on the effectiveness of these programs in 2018.

For inquiries:

Sonya Sutton, HPDP Communications Specialist




Acknowledgements: NHLBI R01HL119568; CDC U48DP001944; www.chart.unc.edu; www.chaicore.com

Ammerman named first Mildred Kaufman Professor of nutrition

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 2.05.38 PMAlice Ammerman, DrPH, professor of nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and director of the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, has been named the inaugural Mildred Kaufman Professor of nutrition.

The professorship was announced at the Gillings School’s 49th annual Fred T. Foard Jr. Memorial Lecture on April 27, pending final approval by UNC’s Board of Trustees.

Ammerman, who joined the UNC faculty in 1991, has strong research and practice collaborations across North Carolina, especially in the area of childhood obesity. She serves on the statewide Childhood Obesity Study Committee, charged with recommending legislative action related to children’s nutrition and physical activity.

She is principal investigator for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded Center of Excellence for Training and Research Translation, charged with identification, translation and dissemination of evidence-based interventions for obesity and cardiovascular disease control and prevention.

Her research interests also include sustainable agriculture as it relates to improved nutrition, school nutrition policy in relation to childhood obesity, and social entrepreneurship as a sustainable approach for addressing public health concerns.

Mildred Kaufman, MPH, who died in 2016, was a former nutrition department chair (1987-1990) and faculty member (1977-1990) at the Gillings School and was a lifelong advocate for public health nutrition.

During a decade of work with the U.S. Public Health Service, she was involved with issues of chronic disease control, standard of food service and nutrition care for nursing homes.

Kaufman’s 12 years working with the State of Florida involved groundbreaking activities, including expanding the number of state nutritionists from 14 to 75 and advocating for the health needs of the migrant population in Florida. She became a national leader in the area of migrant health.

At UNC’s public health school, she was instrumental in developing the Master of Public Health (MPH) program as a means of interdisciplinary training. She developed an innovative MPH program, the first of its kind globally to combine registered dietitian (RD) training with obtaining an MPH degree.

The Mildred Kaufman Professorship was established in recognition of Kaufman’s contributions to practice, training, research and professional service in the field of public health nutrition. The holder of the distinguished professorship is one who honors the goals that guided Kaufman’s career, namely the development of a strong, active nutrition component as a vital element in comprehensive, life-cycle public health programs and services.

“As a student here at UNC, Alice was mentored by Mildred Kaufman,” said Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, PhD, Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor of nutrition and medicine and chair of the Gillings School’s Department of Nutrition. “Since those incredibly important formative years, Alice has been a true champion of public health nutrition, working to improve health and reduce health inequities through public health nutrition research, practice and policy, both here in North Carolina and nationally. I’m sure that Mildred would be as proud of Alice’s accomplishments as we are; it’s a true testament to Mildred’s legacy that Alice has had such a successful career to advance public health nutrition.”

Ammerman noted that Kaufman was chair of the nutrition department when she [Ammerman] was a master’s student at UNC.

“Mildred set a high standard for community engagement among public health nutrition professionals and addressing health disparities,” Ammerman said. “I continue to be inspired by her and strive to incorporate her vision into my own work. I’m therefore very pleased to be awarded a professorship named in her honor.”

Reposted from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health

HPDP receives $1.5 million to develop diabetes self-management education toolkit

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 2.05.38 PM

Alice Ammerman, DrPH

CHAPEL HILL, NC – The Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP), a CDC Prevention Research Center, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was awarded a $1.5 million contract to develop a national toolkit for public health and clinical providers to assure that people with diabetes have access to evidence-based education and support programs to help manage their condition.

Diabetes self-management education and support (DSMES) programs aim to prevent or delay the complications of diabetes. While proven to be cost-saving and have a positive impact on diabetes-related outcomes, DSMES programs remain underutilized among patients and health care professionals. The goal of this project is to expand access to DSMES programs to ensure that all people with diabetes are able to receive the care they need. The research team will market the programs to state health departments to help the health departments distribute the program across their states.

UNC investigators Alice Ammerman, DrPH, director of HPDP and professor of nutrition in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, Thomas Keyserling, MD, MPH, professor of internal medicine in the School of Medicine, Carmen-Samuel Hodge, RD, PhD, research assistant professor of nutrition at Gillings, Greg Randolph, MD, MPH in the department of pediatrics at the School of Medicine and Hugh Waters, PhD, associate professor in the School of Nursing will be partnering with Population Health Improvement Partners (PHIP), People Designs, RTI International, and the RTI-UNC Consortium for Implementation Science (CIS) on this project. The project is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We are delighted to have this opportunity to work with partners at the CDC and with our colleagues in the clinical and public health communities through this project,” said Ammerman. “The DSMES programs have the potential for enormous positive impact if we can develop, implement, and market a Toolkit that helps overcome the challenges provider, patient, and system levels.”

The research team will develop a strategic marketing plan for the toolkit to make sure that all audiences who could benefit from this project will be reached. Diabetes professionals across the United States will be trained to use these tools through a series of webinars and in-person training sessions.

“This toolkit will be a one-stop resource for creating, implementing, sustaining and maintaining a DSMES program that meets the highest quality standards set by the American Diabetes Association and the American Association of Diabetes Educators,” said Joanne Rinker, Senior Director For Community Health Improvement at PHIP.  “We look forward to completing this work over the next 3 years and how it will impact access to diabetes self-management education.”

The UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention is a Prevention Research Center funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Media Contact: Sonya Sutton, ssutton@unc.edu; 919-966-4118

Newly funded project will ease parental concerns and help providers recommend HPV vaccine to help prevent cancer


Noel Brewer, PhD (Photo courtesy of UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health)

CHAPEL HILL, NC –  The human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine has been available for a decade, but many adolescents do not receive the vaccine, putting them at risk for several cancers. A new project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will develop a step-by-step strategy to ease concerns from adolescents and their parents and recommend vaccination to help prevent cancer in future generations.

The project will be led by Noel Brewer, PhD, professor of health behavior at the Gillings School of Global Public Health. He is a member of UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and a chair on the National HPV Vaccination Roundtable. The research funding is from the Prevention Research Center Program at Center for Disease Control and Prevention to the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.

This innovative multi-level study will build on communication theory, clinical experience, and several years of research by Brewer’s team to identify effective messages and to refine a step-by-step strategy for effectively recommending HPV vaccination. The research team will enhance one promising strategy, the EASE approach, which helps providers address parental concerns and effectively recommend vaccination.

“Most parents want to follow their providers’ advice about HPV vaccination,” said Brewer. “But when concerns come up, research doesn’t yet tell us what the best way to address them. We will develop messages that parents and providers both agree are effective.”

Although the EASE approach is promising, it lacks several key features: data about its impact and effectiveness, specific messages to address parents’ HPV concerns, and emphasis on high quality provider information. The research team plans to amend these shortcomings in the EASE approach in order to achieve the main goal of providing a therapeutic connection between providers and parents, which will ideally raise the frequency of vaccinations for a generation largely at risk.

Brewer added one of the most effective ways to start a conversation about adolescent vaccines is for the provider to inform parents that the child is due for meningitis, HPV and Tdap vaccines.  The research will help providers take the next step when parents have questions.

“Increasing HPV vaccination may prevent as many as 50,000 new cases of cancers,” said Brewer.  “Our research will help the nation meet the Healthy People 2020 goal of 80% of adolescents ages 13-15 having received the full course of HPV vaccination.”

The study is based at the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Chapel Hill and funded by the Prevention Research Center Program (PRC) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HPDP has been a Prevention Research Center for the entire 30-year history of the program. The HPV project is of one the PRC’s Special Interest Projects, which focus on priority public health issues using additional funding for prevention research. For more information on SIPs, please visit the Centers for Disease Control’s website.

Nathan Klima

Media Contact: Sonya Sutton, ssutton@unc.edu; 919-966-4118

Building a partnership in Hertford County, NC with Community Health Workers


The Carolina Heart Alliance Networking for Greater Equity (CHANGE) is testing an innovative program to encourage healthy habits and reduce the risk forheart disease by engaging community health workers (CHWs) to bridge the gap between clinical and community services.

Researchers from the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP), a Prevention Research Center funded
by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have partnered with the local health department, federally qualified health center and community leaders to test this approach in Hertford County, NC for the CHANGE project. Hertford County is located in northeastern North Carolina, about 2.5 hours from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The area has an active farming community and other major employers include a privately run prison near the county seat of Winton and poultry processing plants. The community also has a strong public health infrastructure, including the Hertford County Public Health Authority, the Roanoke-Chowan Community Health Center and the North Carolina Area Health Education Center (AHEC).


Click here to watch a video of one of our CHANGE community health workers describe the project.

The HPDP research team is led by Sam Cykert, MD, and Jennifer Leeman, DrPH. The CHANGE project builds on the PRC-developed Heart-to-Health intervention, which has been proven effective when delivered by clinicians, but hadn’t been tried with CHWs.

The research team chose Hertford County because of its rural and low-income population rural and low income and has high rates of unhealthy behaviors. They also chose Hertford because both Dr. Cykert and Dr. Leeman have worked with the community in the past and knew the Public Healthy Authority and Community Health Center would be great partners.

“RCCHC has been particularly good at reducing cardiovascular risk within the clinical realm,” said Cykert. “By connecting CHWs to the clinical world, it provides a great opportunity to reach into the community and not only improve health for those already at risk but to touch family members and others with lessons on diet and other heart healthy habits.”

After choosing Hertford County, the investigators sought out community leaders and public health practitioners to form a community advisory board to advise the process. They spent a year adapting the intervention and developing a plan for its implementation with the advisory team, and hired two community health workers in the fall of 2015.

Taylor Myers and Nikita Moore are both natives of Hertford County who have a keen interest in working in public health and helping their communities.  Myers applied for the position after completing her undergraduate degree in health promotion, and said she was thrilled when she got the job.

“I was very excited, because prevention and intervention is what I always dreamed of doing,” said Myers.  “Helping people to be more educated about health, especially around here, was very exciting. The most exciting part is being able to build a close relationship with a patient, because I can spend more time with them than a doctor or nurse might be able to.”

In addition to recruiting participants from the community, the project recruits through health care providers, and nurses and clinic staff provide potential participants information about the project. If the patient consents to follow-up, then Myers or Moore calls the patient to set up an initial appointment.  Moore works with individuals who relay their interest through community organizations so her recruitment venues expands the primary prevention scope beyond the clinic and those who already have a diagnosis. Myers is based at the Roanoke-Chowan Community Health Center and Moore is based at the health department in nearby Winton.

“I always tell patients that I’m like the middle man between a nurse and a doctor,” said Myers.  “I’m not a nurse and I’m not a doctor, and I have more time with my patients than a doctor;  I’m allowed up to an hour and a half with them. That allows me to build a strong relationship with my patients.”

Myers has worked with 11 CHANGE participants who have completed the program. Those participants have said they enjoyed the program and have had good outcomes.  The CHWs meet with participants four times throughout the program and take their blood pressure and health measurements at the beginning and end to see what changes have occurred.

She said that the partnerships built through CHANGE have helped to connect patients with resources in their communities, and that she felt those partnerships and relationships would last after the project is completed in 2019.

The next step for the project is to expand to a second community in 2017. The team will continue to use the CHW model and will be looking for CHWs in the new community to continue the work started in Hertford County.

The CHANGE project is the Applied Research Project of the UNC Prevention Research Center, based at HPDP. The Prevention Research Centers is a network of 26 academic research centers in 24 states that study how people and their communities can avoid or counter the risks for chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, obesity, and cancer. They identify gaps in research and develop innovative approaches to improving public health that can be shared broadly with public health partners.  HPDP was one of the first three PRCs funded in 1986, and has been part of the PRC network for the entire 30 years of the program.

De Marco receives Provost Engaged Scholarship Award for research

Tony Locklear, Molly De Marco, Daniella Uslan, and Alexandra Lightfoot celebrate De Marco's award for engaged research

Tony Locklear, Daniella Uslan, Molly De Marco and Alexandra Lightfoot celebrate De Marco’s award for engaged research

Molly De Marco, PhD, Research Fellow and project director in the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP) and research assistant professor of nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, has received the 2016 Office of the Provost Engaged Scholarship Award for engaged research.

The award is one of several public service awards presented on March 30th by the Carolina Center for Public Service in a ceremony at the Carolina Club.

De Marco directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded “SNAP-Ed UNC: Healthy Food for All in North Carolina” project, which provides nutrition education to people eligible for SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) in  Duplin, Orange, Lenoir, Sampson, Rockingham and Warren counties. She leads interventions that include the implementation of 18 community gardens and collaborates with three farmers markets to remove barriers to customers’ using SNAP benefits. She also works with the farmers market to increase the number of sites serving summer meals to children and families.

“Molly’s work is the ultimate example of engaged research,” said Alice Ammerman, DrPH, professor of nutrition and HPDP director. “She has a multitude of community partners who seek her collaboration, and she never fails to include input from these partners in her efforts. She is a master at balancing rigorous research principles with meaningful community engagement.”

De Marco, who came to UNC eight years ago for a post-doctoral appointment in community-based participatory research, said she was humbled by the award. “I stand on the shoulders of so many amazing mentors, including Alice Ammerman, Alexandra Lightfoot, Eugenia Eng, Rev. William Kearney, Melvin Jackson, Naeema Muhammad, David Caldwell and Tony Locklear.”

Locklear, a HPDP community partner and current Access to Recovery Services Coordinator and Lumbee Tribal Liaison for the American Indian Center and North Carolina Tribal Nations, received the Partnership Award in the ceremony.

Chancellor Carol L. Folt, who presented the awards, said she was proud to recognize the awardees’ innovativeness, scholarship and dedication.

“The University’s three-part mission to research, educate and serve our local communities, state, nation and world is truly enhanced by our unwavering commitment to public service,” Folt said. “The recipients of this year’s Public Service Awards prove that public service and engaged scholarship enhance the research conducted, lessons taught and knowledge used to serve the public good at this University.”

Other winners include Rhonda Lanning, clinical assistant professor in the School of Nursing, and the American Indian Center and N.C. Tribal Nations (Office of the Provost Engaged Scholarship Awards); Beverly Foster, clinical associate professor and director of undergraduate education in the School of Nursing (Ned Brooks Award for Public Service); undergraduate student Gayatri Rathod, graduate students Catherine Schricker and Korry Tauber, staff member Christopher Wallace, clinical assistant professor of social work Josh Hinson, MSW, and campus organization Student Health Action Coalition (Robert E. Bryan Public Service Awards).

Read more about the awardees on the Carolina Center for Public Service website.

Women’s Health Month Highlight: COMPARE-UF seeks to understand treatment options for uterine fibroids

COMPARE-UF small logo

By Jake Ford, 2016 Communications Intern

In recognition of Women’s History Month, we at the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention will be posting a weekly tribute to the work done by and for women as part of the Women in Science Wednesday initiative by UNC Research. Our activities will include featuring projects that focus on benefitting the lives of women in our community as well as featuring the accomplished women researchers here at HPDP that lead efforts in promoting community health.

COMPARE-UF_ProblemUterine Fibroids affect ¾ women, and disproportionately affect African-American women, but not much is known about what causes fibroids or the best way to manage fibroids.

COMPARE-UF is a study to determine the effectiveness of different surgical and medical management options for uterine fibroids in women across the lifespan (ages 18-54). To help achieve this objective, researchers will create a multi-center (9 US centers) registry of geographically, racially, ethnically, and clinically diverse group of women with uterine fibroids. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of these 9 clinical sites participating in this landmark study. Our goal is to reach women throughout the state of North Carolina that have been affected by uterine fibroids.

The UNC study is led by principal investigator Wanda Nicholson.  Aditi Sundaresan, a COMPARE-UF Research Assistant, has been focusing on recruitment of participants in the study.  “After spending hours and hours on the phone with these women and surveying them about their feelings and experiences surrounding fibroids, it’s so clear that this is a major problem and truly affects a woman’s quality of life,” Sundaresen said.

The study is purely observational and will collect information from women before and after treatment about how the treatment affected their uterine fibroid symptoms. This information will be compared nationally, used to provide answers to women’s questions about treatment options, and lead to improved care for patients with uterine fibroids now and in the future.

Participant Laura Maddux spoke on her motivations to work with COMPARE-UF, “I’m participating in this study because I want to help find answers to the problems that have been so troubling to me,” Maddux said. “It’s been frustrating that so little is known about what causes uterine fibroids, yet they are so common. I also want to encourage other women to talk about what is often an unspoken problem.”

The study has enrolled 24 women for COMPARE-UF so far. Women who may qualify are:

  • Women with symptomatic fibroids
  • Between the ages of 18-54
  • Primarily English speaking
  • Scheduled for a surgical procedure (myomectomies, endometrial ablations, uterine artery embolizations, and MRI focused ultrasounds)

Sundaresan commented, “Fibroids cross all disciplines of women’s health and the doctors I work with are excited to see the results of the study as well. It’ll definitely affect what treatment options they recommend to patients in the future.”


Students in Orange County Schools rate new healthy menu options at Try-Day Friday


Click here to see a news story on this project from WRAL.com

HILLSBOROUGH- The childhood obesity epidemic has brought many different ideas and approaches to helping children learn to eat more healthy foods, and making

Spring Dawson-McClure, an investigator on the Kohl's Fav5 Club project, serves samples to students at Try-Day Friday

Spring Dawson-McClure, an investigator on the Kohl’s Fav5 Club project, serves samples to students at Grady Brown Elementary.

those changes can be especially difficult when it comes to school lunch. A partnership between UNC Children’s and  the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention—funded through a $59,956 donation  from Kohl’s —is enabling cafeteria staff in Orange County to develop healthier menu options and solicit feedback from the most important stakeholders: students themselves.

“The goal of the project is to get kids to try new foods and build enthusiasm around the school lunch program in Orange County Schools,” said Larissa Calancie, who is helping to lead the project from the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.

The initiative brought professional chef Ryan McGuire of the Chefs Academy in Morrisville, N.C., in consultation with the school nutrition staff in Orange County elementary schools to develop new menu options that were healthy, tasty, and met with federal nutritional guidelines for schools. The study culminated in a taste testing event called Try-Day Friday in each of the seven elementary schools in Orange County.

Students tried three new dishes: super Caesar salad; crispy fish wraps; and French toast casserole with apples. After sampling the items, students completed a short survey indicating whether they liked each and if they would try the items again.

“I really liked the fish,” said Tia Hilber, a fourth grade student at Hillsborough Elementary School. Her classmates agreed, and some even asked for second helpings.

“I loved the salad, especially the dressing,” said Isabel Sutton, also a fourth grader at Hillsborough Elementary. “The only thing is I wish it had more vegetables than just the cabbage and carrots.”

The recipe development and taste testings are part of the Kohl’s FAV5 Club. The program and its website offer practical, evidence-based strategies for encouraging healthy eating and physical activity among children and adults.

The program launched at the start of the academic year with information sessions for parents, teachers, administrators, and cafeteria staff, establishing the powerful influence that healthy eating and exercise habits have on brain development, academic success and overall well-being. Students received water bottles to stress the importance of hydration and pedometers to help them track their activity.

Eliana Perrin, MD, MPH, a professor of pediatrics at the UNC School of Medicine who is involved with phase two of the program’s development which will take place in the Chapel Hill-Carborro Schools says it is important for children and parents to understand the health consequences of childhood obesity.

“In North Carolina, 19 percent of children are classified as obese and less than one-third of elementary school children consume recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables,” said Dr. Perrin. “Obese children and adolescents may experience immediate health consequences and may be at risk for weight-related health problems in adulthood.”

The project also provided an opportunity for UNC students to learn about nutrition research in public schools by volunteering to help prepare and serve the samples. Will Chapman, a master’s student in Nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, said he wanted to volunteer because he enjoys working with kids and the project compliments some research he is working on as part of his degree.

“I’m working on a proposal for work similar to this, so I’ve learned a lot about what’s involved and found some missing pieces in my proposed work,” he said. “I learned a lot about what it takes to conduct something like this. It’s very scientific, but there are also realities about working in this kind of environment.”


Teachers at Hilsborough Elementary dressed up as vegetables to get students excited about the event.

The Child Nutrition Services staff plan to add some of these menu items to the school lunch menu beginning in the Spring.  They also plan to partner with No Kid Hungry NC to  capitalize on the enthusiasm generated in the Kohl’s  project to increase children’s participation in school breakfast, as part of ongoing efforts to increase access to healthy food in support children’s health and school success.

Lisa Sales, the child nutrition manager at Hillsborough Elementary, said she was very excited to be a part of the project.

“It gives me joy to see them eating healthy foods, and fresh foods,” said Sales. “I’m a trained chef and this is part of the reason I went to school. These children are our future, and seeing them eat healthy foods is why we are here.”