Food Explorers, a research partnership between the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP), Rockingham County Schools, and Chef Cyndie Story, is a social marketing campaign designed to promote healthy lunch menus and increased fruit and vegetable consumption in North Carolina schools. The campaign is deployed in tandem with upgrades to school cafeteria equipment, new fruit and vegetable recipes and child nutrition staff training. The program is funded by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation  and the Reidsville Area Foundation.  

Topic area(s): Child nutrition, Health Disparities, Obesity Prevention and Control 


The goal of the program is to increase student consumption of fruits and vegetables at lunch, as well as increase student participation in school meal programs. 


Food Explorers is an interactive social marketing campaign for 3rd and 4th grade students in rural North Carolina elementary schools designed to promote healthy changes made to fruit and vegetables on the school food menu (by Chef Cyndie Story and the RC CNS team).  The program aims to increase children’s consumption of fruits and vegetables at lunch through innovative new approaches. Food Explorers incorporates local student, teacher, parent, and child nutrition staff feedback in a single campaign to best address the needs and preferences of this population. The social marketing campaign is designed to increase the effectiveness of the cafeteria intervention by providing critical messages to help encourage and reinforce adoption by students and parents; formative work will provide valuable insight to be used in the improvement and dissemination of the program.

Students participate in a trading card game and passport program to increase exposure to and consumption of fruits and vegetables. Third and fourth grade students in the program will be issued an Explorers Passport at the beginning of the year, and new fruit and vegetable trading cards every week. When the student tries one of the 39 new fruits and vegetables offered in the lunchroom, he or she will receive a stamp in their passport. Students will have a chance to review each new food to determine their favorites. They can become Master Explorers and earn rewards if they participate in the passport program and trading card game and try new food throughout the school year.  Students can become Master Explorers, and earn rewards as individuals and as classes, if they participate and try new foods throughout the school year.


  • Source: BlueCross BlueShield Foundation of North Carolina; Reidsville Area Foundation

  • Dates of funding: December 2012-December 2015


Principle Investigator – Alice Ammerman

Project Director/Manager – Linden Thayer:; 301-461-7838

Seth Noar, Associate Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication:; (919) 962-4075

Heidi Hennink-Kaminski, Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication:; 919-962-2555

Jayne Jeffries:; 765-376-8085




Chef Cyndie Story:

Rockingham Schools: