University of California researchers from multiple locations–Berkeley, Irvine, San Francisco, and the Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI)–collaborated with researchers at Stanford University to investigate language concerning drinking water in school district wellness policies in a random sample of 240 California public schools. The U.S. Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires potable water to be made available at no charge to students in school cafeterias, and also requires school wellness policies that support nutrition standards. Because the strength and comprehensiveness of wellness policy are shown to be key to policy implementation, the research team aimed to learn what type of language was in use and whether that language related to actual school drinking water provision. Researchers found that the strength–scored on a scale of zero to 100–of water language in school wellness policies scored low, 11, while comprehensiveness scored 29. The findings, published online in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, present scores for about two dozen descriptors of water access. School wellness policy language scored highest for descriptors with an associated codified law–for example, the mandate for water access in the cafeteria–and lowest for descriptors of staff and student behaviors that foster water consumption–for example, allowing students to carry refillable water bottles, or requiring staff to drink healthy beverages when in front of students. Researchers found the strength and comprehensiveness of wellness policy water language to be negatively associated with actual school drinking water practices. However, this analysis was limited by the narrow range of the strength and comprehensiveness scores, making it hard to draw conclusions about this association. Steps to improve the usefulness of drinking water school wellness policies moving forward include stronger language concerning drinking water in model policy, such as the California School Boards Association model wellness policy language–used by 86% of study schools–and other supports for wellness policy implementation, including identifying a school “champion,” which was shown to be effective in a previous study conducted by researchers at NPI and Stanford. The school wellness policy study was conducted by Priyanka Sharma of UC Irvine, Gala Moreno and Anisha Patel of Stanford University and UC San Francisco, Emily Altman of UC Berkeley, Karla Hampton, JD, and Christina Hecht of NPI. The study was funded by a grant from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Healthy Eating Research.
News Brief Sign-Up
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.
New University of California and Stanford study reveals lack in California school district wellness policies
Jul 12, 2021
The University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) welcomed Celeste Felix to the team on July 11, 2021 as a Project Policy Analyst. Celeste recently graduated from UC Berkeley with an MPH in Nutrition. She started with NPI as a summer intern in 2020. Through her experience, she developed valuable skills and deepened her passion for reducing health disparities and food insecurity in overlooked communities. In her new role, Celeste will work on several projects to improve the nutrition of children through changes in food retail, school, and childcare settings.
New NPI study suggests online training for child care providers improves knowledge and awareness of California's Healthy Beverages in Child Care policy
California's 2010 Healthy Beverages in Child Care Act (AB2084) specifies that only unflavored low-fat milk or nonfat milk be served to children aged 2 years or older, allows no more than 1 daily serving of 100% juice, prohibits beverages with added sweeteners, and requires that safe drinking water be readily accessible throughout the day in all licensed California (CA) child care centers and family child care homes. A state-wide survey of CA child care providers conducted in 2016 by the University of California, Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) suggested that less than half (45%) of providers fully adhered to the beverage policy. Researchers at NPI partnered with the UCSF School of Nursing, California Childcare Health Program and UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) Cooperative Extension (CE), with support from a UC ANR grant, to develop a brief online training in English and Spanish for providers to increase adherence with the policy. Researchers evaluated the online training, 'Healthy Beverages in Early Care and Education', combined with six months of ongoing technical assistance from CE nutrition educators. The study enrolled 65 licensed child care providers in California. Results suggest that the online training can improve providers' awareness of the policy and knowledge of healthy beverage practices; however, it may not improve providers' adherence to the policy. Further, it suggests that additional technical assistance from CE nutrition educators beyond 6-months may be required to further increase awareness, knowledge, and policy adherence. Results from the study were published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior on June 1, 2021. The study was conducted by NPI researchers Danielle Lee, Kaela Plank, Hannah Thompson, Christina Hecht and Lorrene Ritchie in collaboration with Marisa Neelon from UC ANR, Karina Díaz Rios from UC Merced, and Abbey Alkon from the UCSF School of Nursing. The training is available online for free in English and Spanish for California child care providers, and for $15 for providers located outside of California.
NPI researchers present on WIC participant experiences during COVID-19 at the National WIC Association annual meeting
The federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides supplemental foods, health care referrals, nutrition education, and breastfeeding support to 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 staff and participants. Researchers at the Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) presented two talks at the National WIC Association 2021 virtual annual conference, held online June 15-17, 2021. The first shared results of quantitative and qualitative data collected during the pandemic from WIC participants and WIC local agency directors in California. Results from this study 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. The second talk shared results from a survey of nearly 50,000 WIC participants in 11 states and 1 Indian Tribal Organization. Researchers shared WIC participant perspectives of what worked well and what was challenging about enrollment, nutrition education, shopping for WIC foods, and use of the WIC card and app(s). The survey also collected suggestions from participants on how they would like to receive WIC services once when it is safe to return in-person to WIC clinics, and how their physical, mental and financial well-being and food insecurity changed during the pandemic. Researchers involved in the studies included NPI's Lorrene Ritchie and Danielle Lee, Georgia Machell of the National WIC Association, private consultant Linnea Sallack, and Shannon Whaley of the Public Health Foundation Enterprises-WIC. The projects were funded by grants from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation; the California study was also funded by the California Department of Public Health.
California WIC participants and agency directors agree that COVID flexibilities be retained as program options going forward
Rich with quotes from California WIC participants and local agency directors, two new reports and a policy brief highlight the strong consensus that the waivers USDA put in place and the other modifications the state implemented to make WIC responsive to COVID should be incorporated as permanent options in the program. In light of Congress's imminent program reauthorization, these recommendations informed by research conducted by Public Health Foundation Enterprises (PHFE)-WIC and the Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI), part of the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), take on special significance. Researchers collected information on the experiences with WIC during COVID from interviews with 182 WIC participants, 22 interviews with local WIC agency directors and refinement of interpretation from a meeting with 12 WIC agency directors, and finally, recommendations from multiple perspectives shared at a convening of over 20 local, state, and national WIC participants, experts and leaders. The research team included Lorrene Ritchie, Christina Hecht, Nicole Vital, Ron Strochlic, Marisa Tsai, Claudia Olague, Anna Rios, and Ken Hecht from NPI, Lauren Au from UC Davis Department of Nutrition, and Christopher Anderson, Catherine Martinez, Martha Meza and Shannon Whaley from PHFE-WIC. The project was funded by a grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation with additional funding from the California Department of Public Health WIC Branch.
NPI researchers present on critical role of WIC during COVID-19 pandemic at the American Society for Nutrition's annual conference, Nutrition 2021
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.
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.
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.