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A team of students from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is hoping to ride their Little Red Wagon to victory in a competition for the best new ideas in tackling public health problems.

As part of a competition hosted by the Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) at North Carolina State University, the UNC-CH team is competing with universities across the state for $5,000 to create a campaign to address North Carolina’s high rate of childhood obesity.

Health experts, IEI board members and the North Carolina Innovation Council selected five finalists for the prize. The winner will be decided by a public vote based on YouTube videos created by the finalists. Public voting is open today and will close on Monday, February 7 at 5 p.m. The winner will be announced on February 8.

The UNC team’s concept, Little Red Wagon, concentrates on lack of access to fruits and vegetables and physical inactivity.  The Wagon is a mobile market that will travel into underserved communities with affordable produce sourced from local farms. The Wagon will not only encourage the community to eat more healthfully, but will also engage with children and help them become more physically active.

Volunteers will staff the Little Red Wagon mobile market and offer community members produce tastings, demonstrations on how to cook healthy foods and provide children with fun games to get them active.

“Even if we don’t win the IEI prize, our team has a plan in place to apply for other grants so that we can make the Little Red Wagon a reality,” said Linden Elder, the spokeswoman for the project and a graduate student in nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. “As UNC-CH students, we have the unique advantage of applying our own time and talents along with the expertise and advice of our faculty mentors, community connections and colleagues. We have nothing to lose by trying and can only gain and grow from this incredible experience.”

The project involves students from several different UNC-CH departments and the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, and community partners such as the Carrboro Farmer’s Market and Rogers-Eubanks community.

The focal point of Little Red Wagon team’s video is the Rogers-Eubanks community in Chapel Hill, a predominantly low-income, African American community that has faced poor water, air and soil quality since the installation of the Eubanks Road Landfill in 1972.

“It all came together for me when we arrived on a freezing Saturday morning to film our video clip in Rogers Road,” said Elder.” To my delight, we not only had a great turnout, but all of the kids and their parents were really excited to participate. We filmed the movie, played games and shared food, all in an effort to realize a great idea – the Little Red Wagon.”

Kasey Rankin, HPDP communications intern

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