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Research for healthy food, people and places

The Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) envisions a world in which healthy food, beverages and opportunities for physical activity are accessible, affordable, equitable and sustainable for everyone.

NPI's mission is to conduct and translate policy-relevant research to transform environments for healthy children, families and communities.

Read more about our mission and vision, and learn about our impact.

COVID-19 Update. The State of California has issued a shelter in place order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The Nutrition Policy Institute is working remotely and is still available to answer your questions and address needs. We have compiled resources for consumers and UC Cooperative Extension county directors and advisors on federal & state policy action, local food initiatives, food safety & health, grocery stores, farmers markets & shopping, and guidance on safe access to the outdoors despite COVID-19. Please contact us if you have any questions. 

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Be sure to sign up to receive Research to Action, the Nutrition Policy Institute's news brief providing information on research, policy, news, announcements, events, articles and action items focused on nutrition and healthy communities.


  • NPI Brown Bag Event: CalFresh Healthy Living, University of California - Programmatic Strategies, Adaptation to COVID-19, and Areas for Intentional Collaboration with NPI

    Jul 2, 2020

    The Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) hosted an online Brown Bag event on Tuesday, June 30 from 12:00-1:00pm PDT titled "CalFresh Healthy Living, University of California - Programmatic Strategies, Adaptation to COVID-19, and Areas for Intentional Collaboration with NPI". CalFresh Healthy Living, University of California previously known as UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program is a SNAP-Ed program implemented by UC Cooperative Extension teams in 32 counties. The Brown Bag session highlighted programmatic strategies - including adaptation due to COVID-19 - with the goal of identifying potential areas of more intentional collaboration with NPI. Speakers included Kamaljeet Khaira, Barbara MkNelly, and MaryAnn Mills. The presentation slide deck is available online

  • NPI researcher Janice Kao presents at the 2020 California Higher Education Sustainability Conference

    Jun 30, 2020

    The California Higher Education Sustainability Conference (CHESC) brings together California Community Colleges, California State University, University of California (UC) and representatives of private and independent colleges in California to share best practices in campus sustainability efforts. This conference focuses on the sharing of best practices and lessons learned from the people on the front lines of implementing sustainability efforts in California higher education. The conference will take place virtually for the first time ever this year, July 6-10, 2020. Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) researcher Janice Kao will present on Wednesday, July 8 from 9:15-10:30 a.m. PDT on 'Improving the Healthfulness and Sustainability of UC Vending Machines' in collaboration with UCSF Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute 2019 summer student research fellow Isa Harrison. Kao and Harrison will present on the UC Healthy Vending Policy, sharing results from a multi-campus evaluation of the policy.

  • New NPI study suggests vending machines in staff lounges are associated with sugar-sweetened beverage consumption by school staff

    Jun 29, 2020

    In their latest study, Nutrition Policy Institute researchers found that staff in schools with sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) vending machines in staff lounges were more likely to report consuming one or more SSBs per day compared to staff without SSB vending in staff lounges. Future research to examine the impact of extending SSB regulations to the entire school environment on school staff SSB consumption is an important next step. The study was published online on May 27, 2020 in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports. The study was lead by NPI researchers Suzanne Rauzon, Hallie Randel-Schreiber, and Hannah Thompson in collaboration with Elena Kuo from Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, Center for Community Health and Evaluation, and Pamela Schwartz and Annie Reed from Kaiser Permanente. Read the full study online.

  • New NPI publication describes participants' experiences when the 2018-19 government shutdown disrupted Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Benefits

    Jun 25, 2020

    The federal government shutdown from December 22, 2018 – January 25, 2019 created an unprecedented disruption in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. The Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) in partnership with University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Advisors sought and received an Opportunity Grant from the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, to conduct a cross-sectional qualitative study to capture California SNAP participants' experiences during the benefit disruption. The study aim was to ascertain how the disruption affected participants' food security, health, and well being. Data were collected February and March 2019 in four focus groups with low-income adults in Los Angeles, Tuolumne, San Mateo, and San Francisco. The study was published in the journal Nutrients on June 23, 2020 by Wendi Gosliner, Ken Hecht, Elsa Esparza and Lorrene Ritchie from NPI in collaboration with Wei-Ting Chen from Stanford University (affiliated with UCCE at the time of the study), and Cathryn Johnson and Natalie Price from UCCE.  Participants in the study reported that:

    • SNAP benefits generally are too low for participants to afford an adequate, healthy diet. Despite much effort to manage limited food budgets, participants routinely run out of money for food.
    • Eligibility determinations for SNAP feel overly restrictive, especially in high cost-of living areas, and the program is not adequately agile to respond in a timely way to frequent changes in participants' employment or other circumstances.
    • Customer service and communications between SNAP offices and participants show room for improvement. The 2019 benefit disruption highlighted challenges in communications; few participants reported being informed about the disruption in a timely manner, if at all, and most reported confusion.
    • Some participants described the 2019 benefit disruption as providing temporary relief from routine end-of-the-month scarcity; overall, the disruption caused a great deal of emotional stress, heightened food insecurity, and increased financial distress.
    • The disruption resulted in many participants feeling more insecure about their SNAP benefits, and some losing faith in the government.

    Participants recommended SNAP policy and program changes to:

    1. Improve benefit adequacy by increasing benefit levels.
    2. Modify eligibility and benefit formulas to better address high costs-of-living as well as the expenses associated with working (e.g., transportation, childcare).
    3. Improve customer service and communications.
    4. Prevent future disruptions.

    Read more in the research brief and the study

  • New NPI research brief highlights the importance of serving healthy beverages in child care

    Jun 24, 2020

    Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) are the largest single source of added sugars in the U.S. diet. Consumption of SSBs is a major contributing factor to excessive weight gain in young children and is linked to increased risk of dental decay, type-2 diabetes, metabolic dysfunction and heart disease later in life. For over 10 years, Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) researchers have been working closely with child care stakeholders and advocates from the California Food Policy Advocates to improve the beverages served in licensed child care settings. The implementation of California's Healthy Beverages in Child Care Act (CA AB 2084) in 2012 was a major milestone for this long-term collaboration, which requires all licensed child care providers in California to serve only healthy beverages and serve no SSBs to children in their care. NPI's latest research brief shares results from state wide surveys conducted in 2012 and 2016 in collaboration with CFPA and the Sarah Samuels Center for Public Health Research & Evaluation that suggests only 45% of California child care providers are fully adherent to all four components of CA AB 2084:

    • Serve only low-fat or non-fat milk to children aged 2 years or older.
    • Limit juice to no more than one serving daily of 100% juice.
    • Serve no beverages with added sweeteners, either natural or artificial.
    • Make safe drinking water available and readily accessible throughout the day.

    The research brief also shares how NPI researchers collaborated with the UCSF School of Nursing and the California Child Care Health Program, UC Cooperative Extension, and UC Merced to develop and evaluate a free, on-demand online training in English and Spanish to support child care providers to offer healthy beverages. The research brief is available online

  • Nutrition Policy Institute welcomes five summer student fellows

    Jun 18, 2020

    The Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) is excited to be working with five undergraduate and graduate student fellows over the summer of 2020. Celeste Felix and Caroline Long finished their first year in the University of California (UC), Berkeley School of Public Health, Master's in Public Health (MPH) Nutrition program and have joined NPI to complete their MPH summer internship requirement. They will be working with NPI researchers Wendi Gosliner, Ron Strochlic, and Marisa Tsai to evaluate two California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) programs including the California Nutrition Incentive Program (CNIP), California Healthy Stores Refrigeration Grant Program, and a CDFA Specialty Crop Block Grant funded pilot test of technological innovations to increase specialty crop consumption among CalFresh participants. Sophia Navarro is NPI's first Student Fellowship in honor of Dr. Pat Crawford. She will be working with NPI researchers Lorrene Ritchie and Marisa Tsai and Stanford Medicine Department of Pediatrics pediatrician and researcher Anisha Patel to analyze data collected from fourth grade students who have participated in the Water First Study to examine associations between milk type, calorie intake and body mass index. Anna Rios is a undergraduate student intern from UC Berkeley who will be joining NPI as part of the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland, Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) summer student research program. Rios will be working on an grant proposal to test the impact of milk type on toddler dietary intakes and weight. She will be working with Lorrene Ritchie, Marisa Tsai and Anisha Patel. Erin Esaryk is completing her Berkeley Food Institute fellowship at NPI and will be working with Lorrene Ritchie and UCSF researcher Suzanna Martinez to research food and housing insecurity among UC students.

  • In Memoriam: Joanne Ikeda, Co-Founder of UC Berkeley Center for Weight and Health

    Jun 15, 2020

    Joanne Pakel Ikeda was a pioneer in the field of nutrition education for over 50 years. Joanne was a Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of California (UC), Berkeley. She remained in that position until her retirement in 2006. Joanne loved her job, which included teaching, conducting nutrition education research and extending discoveries to the public, particularly to vulnerable populations. Joanne and colleagues in the Department of Nutritional Sciences established the Center for Weight and Health at UC Berkeley, which is now known as the Nutrition Policy Institute. The center, the first of its kind, facilitated interactions among researchers, policymakers, and community-based organizations to promote healthy weight and reduce food insecurity of children and their families. Joanne passed away on November 27, 2018. Her family, friends and colleagues will remember her always as a fearless leader who worked tirelessly to protect the nutritional health of the public, and in particular, the most vulnerable among us. Joanne's full In Memoriam is available online.  

  • Nutrition Policy Institute researches present at the American Society for Nutrition's first-ever all-virtual conference

    Jun 1, 2020

    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Society for Nutrition will host Nutrition 2020, their annual conference, virtually for the first time ever. The conference will take place online on June 1-4, 2020, and is completely free for attendees, who can join from anywhere in the world. Two Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) researchers will present their latest research as part of the virtual offerings. Marisa Tsai, NPI data analyst, will present two virtual abstracts titled 'Dimensions of School Food Environments and Their Association with Anthropometric and Dietary Outcomes in Children: The Healthy Communities Study' and 'Healthy Default Beverages in Kids' Meals: Evaluating Policy Adherence and Impact in California'. Hannah Thompson, NPI epidemiologist and an affiliated researcher with the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, will present an abstract titled 'The impact of a district-wide chocolate milk removal policy on secondary students' milk purchasing and consumption'. Dr. Thompson's abstract will also have an on-demand virtual presentation available. There is no set time schedule for the virtual abstract presentations. The abstracts will be available through the meeting's online schedule planner and mobile app. Individuals interested in attending Nutrition 2020 can register for free online

  • New study from Nutrition Policy Institute affiliated researchers shows higher retail prices for sugar sweetened beverages after excise taxes

    May 28, 2020

    Oakland and San Francisco, Calif. became the first large, western U.S. cities to pass excise taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) in November 2016 with the goal of reducing SSB consumption and raising revenues for public health education. Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) affiliated researchers examined how much the excise taxes increased retail prices for SSBs in Oakland and San Francisco. In their latest study, they found that retail prices of SSBs significantly increased by approximately the amount of the excise taxes–1 cent per fluid ounce–within four to 10 months of implementation. The prices of beverages that were not taxed–water, milk, and 100% juice–were unaffected. The study was published online on May 21, 2020 in the American Journal of Public Health by lead author Jennifer Falbe with the University of California (UC), Davis Department of Human Ecology. The study was conducted in collaboration with Scott Kaplan of the UC Berkeley Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Alberto Ortega Hinijosa of IMPAQ International, Kristine Madsen of the Berkeley Food Institute and UC Berkeley School of Public health, and Matthew Lee and Nadia Rojas of UC Berkeley School of Public Health.

  • Nutrition Policy Institute study suggests that obesity prevention programs and policies should be implemented in multiple settings to be most effective

    May 14, 2020

    Nutrition Policy Institute's director and cooperative extension specialist Lorrene Ritchie and colleagues published a new study suggesting that efforts to prevent childhood obesity may be more effective when community programs and policies are both intensive and are implemented in multiple settings in which children live, learn, and play. This finding has important implications for practitioners, suggesting that to be effective communities need to plan a sufficient number of programs and policies of higher intensity (i.e. longer duration, fuller reach, and greater strength of strategies) among multiple settings where children can be exposed to these interventions. The study was published in Preventing Chronic Disease on May 7, 2020 by lead author Vicki Collie-Akers from the University of Kansas Medical Center along with co-authors Stephen Fawcett, Jerry Schultz, Kandace Fleming and Rebecca Swinburne Romine also from the University of Kansas, as well as Edward Frongillo from the University of South Carolina, and Sonia Arteaga from the National Institutes of Health. Study data were collected in 2013-2015 from 130 communities across the United States as part of the in the cross-sectional Healthy Communities Study, a six-year observational study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Please see additional news items in our News section

You can now contribute to the work of NPI by making a tax-deductible donation. Your gift will help reduce food insecurity, obesity and diabetes by ensuring that healthy food, beverages and opportunities for physical activity are convenient, accessible, affordable and sustainable.