Nutrition Policy Institute
Nutrition Policy Institute
Nutrition Policy Institute
University of California
Nutrition Policy Institute

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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.


November 3-7, 2017

Lorrene Ritchie presents cutting edge research on the effectiveness of community-level policies for improving childhood obesity outcomes

Global experts on obesity gather in Las Vegas, NV Nov. 3-7, 2019 for Obesity Week 2019, the leading, international scientific conference on obesity presented by The Obesity Society (TOS) in partnership with the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS). Lorrene Ritchie, director of the University of California Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI), will present the latest research on the effectiveness of community programs and policies on reducing childhood obesity outcomes in the workshop, "It's a Disparate Day in the Neighborhood - Cutting Edge Neighborhood Research With an Equity Lens" on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 8:30-10:00 a.m. In addition, Christina Hecht from NPI will be presenting on "Making Sure Water is a Safe Alternative to SSBs – Improving Water Consumption in Early Care and Education, School and Homes" from 1:30-3:00 p.m.


November 2-7, 2017

Several NPI studies presented at largest annual gathering of public health professionals

Researchers from the University of California, Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) will share the latest findings on California's newest healthy default beverage policy for restaurant kids mealscommunity eligibility provision in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, and how mobile produce stands can improve healthy food access at APHA 2019. APHA's Annual Meeting and Expo is the largest and most influential annual gathering of public health professionals with nearly 13,000 attendees joining each year. Gail Woodward-Lopez, associate director of research, will be releasing a new, comprehensive tool for self-assessing eating and actives practices in settings where children learn. Wendi Gosliner will also be presenting "Policy and Politics in the USDA Child Nutrition Programs".


November 1, 2019

Zero to 60 challenge: Can you go 30 days without drinking a sugary beverage? 

Soda is the number one source of added sugar in the American diet and more than 30 percent of all calories from added sugars consumed daily come from sweetened beverages. Think you can go 30 days without drinking a sugary beverage? The National Drinking Water Alliance, coordinated by the University of California Nutrition Policy Institute, encourages you to challenge yourself to live a healthier life by choosing water instead of sugary drinks and take the NB3 Foundation’s Zero to 60 challenge for the month of November.



October 24, 2019

NPI study shows child care centers, schools, hospitals and restaurants purchased over $2.9 million of California-grown fruits and vegetables with new Riverside Unified School District food distribution hub

Researchers at the Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) at the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources conducted an evaluation of Riverside Unified School District's (RUSD) pilot food distribution hub. The hub began operations in 2017. Findings indicate that the RUSD distributed $2.9 million of California grown specialty crops from July 2017 through June 2019. Of that amount, $308,000 was purchased from 12 local growers in Riverside County, while $2.6 million was purchased from local produce distribution companies. The food hub purchased over $200,000 of cosmetically imperfect produce and introduced children at schools and childcare centers to new varieties of California-grown fruits and vegetables. Read the full evaluation report or summary for more information. 


October 21-23, 2019

NPI researchers share resources for child care providers on healthy beverages and drinking water at the 28th annual Child Care Food Program Roundtable Conference

The Child Care Food Program Roundtable Conference is an opportunity for stakeholders and members of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) from across the  nation to get together annually. This year, the Roundtable Conference is taking place October 21-23 in Rancho Mirage, Calif.  On Monday, October 21, Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) researcher Danielle Lee and NPI policy director Ken Hecht will announce, as part of a conference session, a new online training resource for child care providers to support offering healthy beverages. On Wednesday, October 23, NPI's Laura Vollmer and Christina Hecht of the National Drinking Water Alliance will engage providers on how to offer drinking water in accordance with CACFP requirements during their invited presentation on "Clean, Cool Tap Water". 


October 18, 2019

NPI's Laura Vollmer participates in The Community of Food, Society & Justice Conference panel on what's working for increasing access to healthy food

Nutrition Policy Institute researcher Laura Vollmer, MPH, RD will participate in a panel discussion, “Healthy Food Actionists: Lightning fast discussions about what’s working and why” at the The Community of Food, Society & Justice Conference on October 18, 2019 at the University of Michigan. Vollmer will present on efforts across the nation to improve access to healthy beverages, particularly drinking water, through her work coordinating the National Drinking Water Alliance


October 17, 2019

Lorrene Ritchie quoted in Washington Post about unhealthy convenience foods marketed for toddlers.

A recent Washington Post article, Sweet excess: How the baby food industry hooks toddlers on sugar, salt and fat featured quotes from Nutrition Policy Institute Director, Lorrene Ritchie. The article discussed the new boom in unhealthy foods and beverages for children six months to 3 years old, packaged for convenience and often promising health benefits. Dr. Ritchie worries that low-income parents will be more inclined to spend their money on these heavily advertised baby foods, toddler milks and packaged snacks at the expense of healthier options. “The amount of funding spent to promote healthy foods, which is mostly via federal nutrition education dollars such as WIC and SNAP-Ed, is dwarfed by food marketing which is mostly for unhealthy and ‘treat’ foods and beverages. I fear we will never make a big dent in diet-related chronic disease until we level this playing field.”


October 17, 2019 

Lorrene Ritchie quoted in LAist about unhealthy after-school program foods. 

A recent LAist article, We Got The Snack Receipts For LA Rec And Park's After-School Programs — It's Mostly Junk, featured quotes from Nutrition Policy Institute Director, Lorrene Ritchie. Dr. Ritchie explained that eating junk food at snack time can affect a child's overall health. "It's not massive gorging that contributes to obesity,". "It's just the small amount of extra calories every day."

October 10, 2019

UC ANR Global Food Initiative fellow, Elsa Esparza, will work with NPI researchers on a CDFA Healthy Stores Refrigeration Grant Program Evaluation

Elsa Esparza, graduate student from the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health, has been selected as a Global Food Initiative (GFI) Fellow in the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources for 2019-2020. Esparza will work with NPI researchers to understand how obtaining refrigeration units impacts small neighborhood stores' fruit and vegetable offerings, as well as store owner and consumer perceptions of the stores and the grant program. Esparza also will help to create public facing research dissemination products designed to communicate with decision makers and other stakeholders.


October 3, 2019

NPI Brown Bag: Nutrition research in a hard-to-reach population with Susana Matias, Cooperative Extension Specialist  from UC Berkeley Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology

Latino farmworkers represent a vulnerable and understudied population, with high rates of chronic disease and limited access to health care. Susana Matias, Cooperative Extension Specialist  from UC Berkeley Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology will present findings from a cohort study of Latino farmworker families in Central California and a randomized trial conducted in Salinas and Oxnard. Her results will elucidate their health risks, as well as promising intervention strategies in this medically undeserved population.


September 23, 2019

California Department of Food and Agriculture awards Nutrition Policy Institute $88,000 to evaluate the Expansion of the Riverside Unified School District Food Distribution Hub

In collaboration with the Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) and the Riverside University Health System – Public Health, Nutrition Policy Institute researchers Ron Strochlic and Ken Hecht received a 2019 California Department of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant for the project “Expansion of the Riverside Unified School District Food Distribution Hub.” The award was $432,000 in full, with $88,000 awarded to Strochlic and Hecht. The RUSD food distribution hub began operations with CDFA Specialty Crop Block funding in 2017, and has been distributing fruits and vegetables sourced from local growers to smaller school districts, childcare centers, healthcare providers and restaurants in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Current funding, which begins in November 2019, will allow the food hub to continue growing, with the goal of achieving financial sustainability by the end of the grant period in April 2022.


September 23, 2019

California Department of Food and Agriculture awards Nutrition Policy Institute over $443,000 to Evaluate Text Message Marketing of Specialty Crops to CalFresh Participants

Nutrition Policy Institute researchers Wendi Gosliner and Ron Strochlic received a 2019 California Department of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant for the project “Technological Innovations to Increase Specialty Crop Consumption among CalFresh Participants”. The project aims to increase demand for and consumption of specialty crops – fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits – among San Diego County’s CalFresh participants by utilizing the County’s new text messaging system to provide all CalFresh participants with information about, 1) the benefits of consuming specialty crops; 2) affordable, seasonal specialty crops; and 3) how to select, store, and prepare specialty crops. The project will expose tens of thousands of San Diego County CalFresh participants to digital resources developed with cutting-edge behavioral science insights in mind. The project will be conducted in partnership with the University of California, San Diego Center for Community Health and ideas42. The project begins November 2019 and will continue through November 2021.


September 23, 2019

University of California submits letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture to oppose proposed rule that would revise the definition of categorical eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Recently proposed new rules for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), CalFresh in California, would cut 3.1 million people off of SNAP if enacted, as estimated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In California, that would mean 230,000 - 390,000 or more low-income households would lose access to CalFresh. With support from Nutrition Policy Institute's (NPI) Wendi Gosliner and Ken Hecht, the University of California (UC) submitted to the USDA comments opposing the new rule. The letter was signed by UC President Janet Napolitano and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Vice President Glenda Humiston.

Research conducted by NPI shows that 40% of UC students experience food insecurity. The letter states concern that the proposed rule would hurt low-income college students by eliminating their eligibility for SNAP. Current regulations allow college students SNAP benefits if they are eligible for Federal Work-Study or Cal Grant participation. This is especially important for student parents who make up one-fifth of U.S. college undergraduates and are among the 40 percent who have participated in federal food assistance programs, with 25 percent having received SNAP benefits.


September 18, 2019

NPI evaluation suggests that increased use of local parks in California requires infrastructure improvements and sustainable programming

The Nutrition Policy Institute evaluated the Active Parks, Healthy People Pilot Program in three California counties – Fresno, Los Angeles, and Stanislaus. The program aimed to increase local park use and physical activity of program participants. Qualitative findings suggest three key facilitators to promoting park use include: 

  1. Improving park amenities through increased signage, lighting, play equipment, and facilities maintenance
  2. Supporting policy change around park use such as easing restrictions to park use after dark
  3. Establishing community tailored, sustainable park programming

More information about the research findings are available in this research brief and evaluation report.


September 10, 2019

Research by Lauren Au of NPI shows association between food insecurity and childhood obesity

One in eight Americans lack access to enough food, and children growing up in food insecure households face many challenges such as behavioral problems, lower academic achievement, disrupted social interactions, and poor health. The prevailing belief is that children living in a food insecure environment leads to undernutrition, and not obesity. However, a study conducted by Lauren Au of NPI showed that children living in food-insecure households had high body mass index, waist circumference, greater odds of being overweight or obese, consumed more sugar from sugar-sweetened beverages, and less frequently ate breakfast and dinner with family compared to children from food-secure households. The study was conducted using data collected in 2013-2015 from 5138 US schoolchildren ages 4-15 years old from 130 communities in the cross-sectional Healthy Communities Study. The study is available online in the Journal of Nutrition.  


September 5, 2019

NPI Brown Bag: Advancing equitable food systems through evidence-based policy with Sabrina Adler and Nessia Berner Wong of ChangeLab Solutions

As an organization focused on using law and policy to advance health equity ChangeLab Solutions must balance the evidence-base research for action and the values and expertise of the communities we work with. Sabrina Adler, JD and Nessia Berner Wong, MPH from ChangeLab Solutions will join NPI to share examples of this approach in practice at the national, state, and local level; as well as how food system values influence this work. For more information please listen to the brown bag recording


Please see additional news items in our News section

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