March 11, 2020
Jessica Soldavini, MPH, RD, LDN, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Nutrition at the UNC-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health, is the winner of the inaugural Engaged Scholarship Prize in the graduate student category. She received a $500 award during the North Carolina Campus Compact (NCCC) 2020 PACE Conference, which was hosted at Elon University on February 12.
The brainchild of UNC-Greensboro Chancellor Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., the Engaged Scholarship Prize – given by the 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 must 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 student, Soldavini fights child hunger by evaluating and implementing programs that expand food security and improve nutrition. In particular, she focuses on increasing access to underutilized federal child nutrition programs through her work as a graduate research assistant with No Kid Hungry NC. 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, serving as part of the leadership team, conducting a formal program evaluation and broadly sharing the program model. In 2017, she began working 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.
In related research and evaluation projects, she consults 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 — while always remaining conscious of building community through her work. College students take part as service-learners and volunteers, and children, families and staff provide input and feedback to inform program development. Soldavini shares lessons learned from these key stakeholders through numerous channels, including the No Kid Hungry NC website, national and state conferences presentations and in peer-reviewed journals.
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.
Contact the Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at firstname.lastname@example.org.