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Jayne Jeffries with her program Food ExplorersEach year, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s graduate school recognizes graduate students for the contributions they are making in North Carolina with the Graduate Education Advancement Board Impact Awards.

This spring, UNC-CH Gillings School of Public Health doctoral student Jayne Jeffries was awarded for her work with Food Explorers, a community outreach initiative designed to change kids’ perceptions of healthy foods. Jeffries helped to develop the pilot program, tested in rural schools in Rockingham County, which focused on the strategy of showing elementary-age rural children that fruit and vegetables are fun lunch choices. She conducted in-depth interviews and focus groups with parents, cafeteria staff members, principals and students; she then statistically analyzed the program’s effectiveness. This pilot program showed increased fruit consumption among those participating and was met with great enthusiasm from cafeteria staff, teachers and students alike.

Her advisor Laura Linnan, Sc.D. said, “As a part of the Food Explorers research team, she has taken a leadership role in planning and developing an intervention designed to increase access to healthy foods among children in Rockingham County.”

Food Explorers is a research partnership between the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Rockingham County Schools and Chef Cyndie Story. The program is funded by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation and the Reidsville Area Foundation. Using social marketing, Food Explorers promotes healthy lunch alternatives through upgrades in school cafeteria equipment, new fruit and vegetable-centered recipes, and child nutrition staff training.

The Impact Awards are made possible by the support of the Graduate Education Advancement Board.

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