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RWJF Collaborative Supports Research to Strengthen NM School Nutrition Policy Environment

The RWJF Nursing and Health Policy Collaborative has recently provided additional funding to the research team of Elizabeth Yakes, PhD, RD (College of Education), Victoria Sanchez, Dr.PH (College of Medicine) and Carolyn Montoya, MSN, PNP (College of Nursing), for dissemination of their findings on school nutrition and policy. Their first Collaborative-funded study (2011-2012) illuminated the significance of the social and cultural environment on school nutrition practices in New Mexico’s Las Vegas school district and set the stage for ongoing planning and implementation of school-based policies and programs. Their preliminary research strengthened the ability of Las Vegas City schools to collect, analyze, and disseminate data on nutrition policy implementation.

The funding of this study showed that students were throwing away a significant proportion of the fruits and vegetables that were being served, which led the school board to realize that federal policy compliance was not enough: local efforts needed to be made to create the demand for healthy foods among students.

Supplemental funding from the RWJF Nursing and Health Policy Collaborative will enable the research team to facilitate community identification of the next steps for a school nutrition policy agenda, professional and scholarly dissemination of research findings, and the development of funding applications for further research. The challenges of meeting federal school nutrition standards and ensuring affordable and accessible healthy foods in the community will require a multilevel approach and engage multiple stakeholders. In the Las Vegas school district, nursing leadership is integral to the next steps as the project will engage public health workers and school nurses in identifying policy implications of this research.