Jessica Soldavini, MPH, RD, LDN, is the winner of the UNCG/NCCC inaugural Engaged Scholarship Prize in the graduate student category. Soldavini is a graduate research assistant with No Kid Hungry North Carolina and a doctoral candidate in the Department of Nutrition at the UNC-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health. She received the $500 award during the North Carolina Campus Compact 2020 PACE Conference hosted at Elon University on February 12, 2020.
The brainchild of UNC-Greensboro Chancellor Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., the Engaged Scholarship Prize – given by the North Carolina Campus Compact in partnership with UNCG – recognizes scholars whose academic work seeks to address public issues and engage communities in collaborative processes that produce or apply knowledge. These scholars also advance service-learning and civic engagement in higher education and disseminate their work to a broader public. The prize recognizes one full-time faculty member and one graduate student.
As a doctoral student, Jessica Soldavini fights child hunger by evaluating and implementing programs that expand food security and improve nutrition. Her work with No Kid Hungry NC focuses on increasing access to underutilized federal child nutrition programs. To improve the Summer Food Service program, for example, Soldavini partners with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, analyzing data to create county-level profiles, conducting an annual survey of summer feeding sponsors and sites, and sharing her findings at the agency’s SummerPalooza! summits.
Since 2016, Soldavini has worked with Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools to grow the district’s Food for the Summer meals program by serving as part of the leadership team, conducting a formal program evaluation, and sharing the program model. In 2017, Soldavini began work with Orange County Schools to develop Cooking Matters for Kids, an after-school, hands-on cooking and nutrition education program for third through fifth grade students. The popular program now serves seven after-school sites and is the subject of Soldavini’s dissertation.
The award recognized Soldavini for her community engagement approach, which includes with partners to ensure the data and products she provides are useful – for program planning, to enlist the support of stakeholders, or to secure grant funding. She is also conscious of building community through her work. College students take part in her work as service-learners and volunteers; and children, families, and staff provide input and feedback to inform program development. Soldavini also shares lessons learned through numerous channels, including the No Kid Hungry NC website, presentations at national and state conferences, and in peer-reviewed journals.
“My goal is to help alleviate food insecurity and improve nutritional outcomes among underserved populations in North Carolina,” Soldavini said, “and I cannot do it alone.”
About North Carolina Campus Compact
North Carolina Campus Compact is a collaborative network of 39 colleges and universities committed to educating students for civic and social responsibility, partnering with communities for positive change, and strengthening democracy.
About No Kid Hungry North Carolina
No Kid Hungry North Carolina is a public-private coalition working to end childhood hunger. The partnership between Share Our Strength and UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention is ending childhood hunger in North Carolina by ensuring kids get the food they need by increasing access to federal child nutrition programs for school breakfast, afterschool meals, and summer meals. No Kid Hungry North Carolina was founded in 2011 in partnership with state leaders. In 2014, it became an initiative of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Learn more at NoKidHungryNC.org.