The federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides supplemental foods, health care referrals, nutrition education, and breastfeeding support for low-income women, infants and children up to age five who are at nutritional risk. The COVID-19 pandemic brought unexpected and unprecedented changes to WIC service delivery in order to protect the health and well-being of participants and staff. Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) researchers shared experiences of California WIC families during the COVID-19 pandemic at the American Society for Nutrition's annual conference, Nutrition 2021 Live Online, held virtually June 7-10, 2021. The presentation, titled "WIC is critical during the COVID-19 pandemic: Lessons learned from Los Angeles County participants", shared results of data collected from WIC participants and local WIC agency directors in California. Results highlight the significant success of the California WIC program in reaching participants and meeting their needs during the COVID crisis and suggest multiple strategies useful for continued program improvements throughout the nation. NPI's Lorrene Ritchie, Nicole Vital, and Marisa Tsai, presented at the conference in collaboration with Lauren Au of the University of California (UC), Davis Department of Nutrition, and Shannon Whaley, Chris Anderson, Martha Meza, and Catherine Martinez of Public Health Foundation Enterprises, WIC. The project was funded by a grant from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation.
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NPI researchers present on critical role of WIC during COVID-19 pandemic at the American Society for Nutrition's annual conference, Nutrition 2021
More than half of infants in the US participate in the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. WIC provides supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education to low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are at nutritional risk. In a recent study, researchers examined the association between the duration of WIC participation and the diet quality of 24-month-old children. They found that children who received WIC benefits during most of the first two years of life had better diet quality at age 24 months than children who, despite remaining eligible for benefits, discontinued WIC during infancy. These findings suggest nutritional benefits for eligible children who stay in the program longer and highlight the importance of helping them to do so. The study results have been compiled into a policy brief by the University of California (UC), Davis Center for Poverty & Inequality Research, and are available online. The research was conducted by Nancy Weinfield of the Mid-Atlantic Permanente Research Institute, Christine Borger of Westat, Lauren Au of UC Davis Department of Nutrition, Shannon Whaley of Public Health Foundation Enterprises WIC, Danielle Berman of the US Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, and Lorrene Ritchie of the Nutrition Policy Institute within the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
New NPI resource provides information on safe reopening of building plumbing following pandemic closuresMay 14, 2021
When buildings have had low or no water use – for example, during COVID-19 pandemic closures – it is important to restart building plumbing systems safely. UC ANR Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) partnered with Purdue University Center for Plumbing Safety to produce an information sheet on how to safely reopen building plumbing following pandemic closures. Before sending water out, the public water utility undertakes a variety of treatments to ensure that tap water meets federal and state standards. These include corrosion control to prevent lead from flaking or leaching out of any lead-containing pipes, and disinfectants (usually chlorine) to inhibit microbial growth. However, these protections break down when water is not flowing, such as when taps are not in regular use. A simple but specialized flushing program is recommended to remove any stagnant water or bacterial buildup in the plumbing system. The information sheet briefly explains the problem and provides a list of resources targeted to the owners or operators of large buildings, particularly schools. A webinar, checklists for reopening plumbing, and downloadable flushing plans are among the resource links provided. The information sheet is available online.
Three new NPI policy briefs elevate San Joaquin Valley parent voices on importance of School Meals for All
Throughout the pandemic, the Nutrition Policy Institute policy team, Christina Hecht and Ken Hecht, have partnered with a Stanford University research team and two San Joaquin Valley community-based organizations to help improve access to school meals. The team's study included parent focus groups to capture parents' concerns and wishes regarding their children's school meals, and a parent PhotoVoice project to visually document school meals. Nearly all parent engagements were conducted in Spanish and study findings were reported to the community via a bilingual webinar and Radio Bilingüe. Recently introduced state (California SB 364) and federal (The Universal School Meals Program Act of 2021) legislation aim to provide free school meals for all enrolled children. Both bills include added funds for locally-sourced foods and the establishment of a “Summer EBT” program to provide low-income families with extra funds for food when schools – and school meal programs – are closed. Learn about the legislation and read parent viewpoints in Parent Voices: School Meals for All, Parent Voices: Local Foods for School Meals, and Parent Voices: Summer EBT. This work was supported with funding from the American Heart Association Voices for Healthy Kids, The Center at Sierra Health Foundation and the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund, Stanford Medical Scholars Program, Stanford Pediatric Resident Research Grant, and Share Our Strength No Kid Hungry. This work also received a United States Public Health Service 2021 Excellence in Public Health Award.
NPI researchers share the experiences of California WIC families during the COVID-19 pandemic at California WIC Association conference
The federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)provides supplemental foods, health care referrals, nutrition education, and breastfeeding support for low-income women, infants and children up to age five who are at nutritional risk. The program reaches one out of every two infants born in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic brought unexpected and unprecedented changes to WIC service delivery in order to protect the health and well-being of participants and staff. Nutrition Policy Institute researches shared experiences of California WIC families during the COVID-19 pandemic at the 2021 California WIC Association conference, held virtually May 3-7, 2021. The presentation shared results of data collected from WIC participants and local WIC agency directors in California. Results highlight the significant success of the California WIC program in reaching participants and meeting their needs during the COVID crisis, and suggest multiple strategies useful for continued program improvements throughout the nation. NPI's Lorrene Ritchie presented at the conference in collaboration with Shannon Whaley of Public Health Foundation Enterprises, WIC. The project was funded by a grant from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation.
NPI researchers present on challenges and opportunities for SNAP-Ed programs during the COVID-19 pandemic at 2021 National Health Outreach Conference
USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) impacts the lives of participants through education as well as policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) change initiatives at schools, early care and education facilities, food banks and pantries, and other community sites. SNAP-Ed, which focuses on individuals and families with low income and the communities in which they live, can improve health equity. However, SNAP-Ed interventions were dramatically impacted in 2020 by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers at the Nutrition Policy Institute presented relevant research findings at the 2021 National Health Outreach Conference, held virtually on May 3-7, 2021. Their presentation, entitled 'Challenges and Opportunities for SNAP-Ed Programs during the COVID-19 Pandemic', described the ways in which California's local health departments shifted their SNAP-Ed efforts, barriers that COVID-19 created in their PSE work, and factors that facilitated new and continued efforts. Despite a 37% reduction in the number of SNAP-Ed sites reached in 2020 when compared to each of the previous two years, many successful PSE efforts were implemented by local health departments in 2020, including new interventions at numerous sites that were initiated in response to COVID-19. A common theme reported in relation to successful efforts was the importance of strong partnerships. NPI's Carolyn Rider presented these findings in collaboration with NPI researchers Janice Kao, Christina Becker, Evan Talmage, and Gail Woodward-Lopez.
Apr 27, 2021
Drinking water is the healthy alternative to the sugary drinks that are a risk factor for many diet-related chronic diseases and tooth decay, and plain drinking water is also more environmentally friendly than packaged sugary drinks. Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) researcher Christina Hecht, who coordinates the National Drinking Water Alliance, received funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Healthy Eating Research program to develop a 'photo-evidence' tool to document the condition of drinking water access in schools and other community locations. This work was conducted in collaboration with the University of Washington School of Public Health and Stanford Medicine Department of Pediatrics. The tool, Assessing the Quality of Water Access (AQWA), is designed for use by community or citizen scientists and allows a documentary and quantitative survey of the elements that should be present to maximize water consumption. The AQWA toolkit is available online. Critical elements in drinking water access, dubbed ‘Effective Access to Drinking Water' were identified by researchers during the development of the AQWA tool. These include water dispenser cleanliness, condition and accessibility, adequate water flow, presence of cups, and educational or promotional messaging about drinking water and healthy hydration. A new research brief, entitled ‘Effective Access to Drinking Water in Schools: What is it and why does it matter?' provides a summary of the research on the importance of these elements as well as the evidence base on school drinking water access around the US. The research brief is available online. Contact Christina Hecht, at email@example.com, if your group might undertake a project using AQWA.
Congress is working on Child Nutrition Reauthorization, which has been delayed since 2015. The previous reauthorization resulted in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA). Despite the delay, a recent study shows that school meals are the single overall healthiest source of eating in the U.S., suggesting children's nutrition has fared well under HHFKA. Limitation of added sugars in school meals was not incorporated into the HHFKA, due in large part to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) anticipating that maximum calorie levels in school meals would effectively curb amounts of added sugars. However, this was not effective as a recent study showed that most schools exceeded the guideline of 10% of total calories daily limit for added sugars at both breakfast (92%) and lunch (69%). In their latest policy brief, Nutrition Policy Institute researchers in collaboration with Stanford Medicine Department of Pediatrics, Cultiva La Salud, and the Dolores Huerta Foundation, share findings from a research project involving San Joaquin Valley parents of children who receive school meals during COVID-19 related school closures. Parent experiences of school meals were collected from focus groups and PhotoVoice documentation of one week's worth of school meals. Parents expressed concern about the freshness, nutritional quality, and amount of added sugars in the school meals. The brief, entitled ‘School Meals: Kids are Sweeter with Less Sugar' presents parent photographs together with parent quotes and a brief summary of the background. It concludes with the policy recommendation that Congress, through Child Nutrition Reauthorization, direct USDA to implement a standard for added sugars that aligns with the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The brief is available online.
Researchers at the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) presented at the 2021 Virtual Sugary Drink Summit, hosted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, on April 20-22. The three-day event brought together public health experts and advocates to discuss national, state, and local policies that build community capacity for advocacy, improve health and health equity while reducing consumption of sugary drinks. Christina Hecht from NPI hosted a session on the importance of equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water. Marisa Tsai, an NPI researcher, presented a session titled, 'Evidence base for policy interventions to reduce SSB consumption', where she shared findings from NPI's recent studies on healthy default beverage policies for restaurant kids meals and a chocolate milk removal policy for school cafeterias. The summit culminated on Friday, April 23, when summit participants had an opportunity to participate in a virtual Hill day to visit their Congressional offices. Participants provided information on the evidence base and recommendations to improve nutrition and particularly to reduce consumption of added sugars, with a focus on upcoming legislation including Child Nutrition Reauthorization and the SWEET Act, that would impose a tiered national tax on sugary drinks.
The University of California (UC) Merced Farmworker Health Research Conference brought together researchers from across the country, UC officials, local and state leaders, and community members on April 9 for a virtual conference on farmworker health. The conference is part of a study that started in May 2020 and runs through June 2022. Researchers aim to expand on findings from the 1999 California Agricultural Health Workers Survey, conducted by the California Institute for Rural Studies, and will focus on the long-term health of farmworkers. University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) researcher Ron Strochlic will be contributing to the study by conducting interviews with growers and other stakeholders to identify ways to increase farmworkers' access to health care. Strochlic also served on the conference planning committee, in collaboration with the event chair, Edward Flores, co-director of the Community and Labor Center at UC Merced, and fellow committee members Ana Padilla, executive director of the Community and Labor Center, public health Professor Paul Brown and graduate student Nimrat Sandhu of UC Merced, Christy Getz, associate cooperative extension specialist of UC Berkeley, consultant Joel Diringer and legislative advocate Noe Paramo of California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation. The conference was funded in support by the California Department of Public Health and the California Endowment. Conference presentations and discussions were uploaded to the Community and Labor Center's YouTube channel, where they will be available until June 9, 2021.
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