UAMS Gets $1.3M Pledge to Develop School Nutrition Program

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The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences said Wednesday that it will expand partnerships with local school districts to implement a school nutrition enrichment program in northwest Arkansas to provide healthier food choices for students. 

The expansion is supported by a $1.28 million grant from the Alice L. Walton Foundation.

UAMS said the expansion will build on a pilot program implemented by its Office of Community Health & Research to improve nutrition in schools. The UAMS school nutrition program will be working with six school districts in northwest Arkansas, beginning with Bentonville and Springdale in 2020. It will add two additional school districts each year in 2021 and 2022, and has hopes of expanding the program through northwest Arkansas and the state.

“We have been very successful in reducing the amount of sodium in school lunches and providing healthier food choices for students,” Pearl McElfish, Ph.D., vice chancellor for the UAMS Northwest Regional Campus, said. “Thanks to this additional funding, we can expand our efforts and help more schools build sustainable and healthier nutrition programs with a focus on reducing sugar and saturated fat, and increasing fruits and vegetables.”

In the pilot program, the UAMS Healthy Food System team assisted the Springdale School District and meal programs with food service guidelines and nutrition standards, new practices designed to improve menus and food preparation practices primarily focused on reducing sodium.