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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.


  • Research brief shares findings from an evaluation of the California Nutrition Incentive Program at Farmers’ Market

    The California Nutrition Incentive Program (CNIP) provides CalFresh shoppers a dollar-for-dollar match when purchasing California-grown fruits and vegetables at participating Certified Farmers Markets and small food stores. Over 4.6 million Californians with low-income receive money to spend on food through CalFresh, also known as the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) researchers conducted an evaluation of the CNIP program operating at California farmers' markets in 2018. Interviews were conducted with 386 CalFresh shoppers from ten farmers' markets offering maximum incentives ranging from $0 to $20, and from nine nearby supermarkets not offering incentives. Researchers found that CalFresh CNIP shoppers who reported using more of the match incentive reported lower levels of food insecurity. Additionally, farmers' market shoppers consumed more fruits and vegetables than supermarket shoppers, though no differences in consumption were found between CNIP and non-CNIP shoppers. Program participants expressed consistent and overwhelmingly positive appreciation for the CNIP program.  “I'm eating better because I can afford to get fresh food, fresh vegetables and fruit that I wouldn't get otherwise,” said one CalFresh shopper about the CNIP program, “It gives me a chance to taste and to eat foods that I might not otherwise be exposed to, and foods that I wouldn't feel like I could afford." Despite the overwhelming support for the CNIP program from those using it, researchers found that fewer than one-in-five supermarket shoppers were aware of the CNIP program; after learning about CNIP, nearly all said they would be likely to use it. Findings from the evaluation are available in an online research brief. The research was led by NPI researchers Wendi Gosliner, Ron Strochlic, and Sridharshi Hewawitharana and included UC Berkeley graduate student researchers Celeste Felix and Caroline Long. The evaluation was funded by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

  • Donate on #GivingTuesday to support NPI in conducting policy-relevant research to fight food insecurity and support nutrition programs for California’s most vulnerable populations

    Nov 17, 2020

    #GivingTuesday invites you to join a movement to celebrate giving and encourage more, better and smarter giving during the holiday season. SAVE THE DATE - Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020 - this year's #GivingTuesday. Your support can really make a difference in helping the University of California's Nutrition Policy Institute fight food insecurity and support nutrition programs for California's most vulnerable populations. You can help ensure access to healthy food and nutrition programs for millions of children. In this critical time, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased health disparities and put low-income families at great risk. NPI is conducting research aimed at creating systemic change in order to improve low-income children's health and opportunities for a brighter future. With your help, we can continue to tackle the most pressing issues of our time and ensure equitable access to healthy food for children, families, and our communities. For over 20 years, NPI has conducted research and provided policymakers with data to support the provision of healthier foods for children in childcare, schools, and federal food programs. Support NPI today!

  • Fewer state regulations exist for family child care homes compared to child care centers on supporting breastfeeding and healthy beverages according to latest NPI study

    Nov 16, 2020

    Nearly half of young children in the United States participate in licensed child care settings, where they can consume up to two-thirds of their daily dietary intake. Thus, these are important settings in which young children are provided beverages that support their health. A recent study conducted by Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) in collaboration with the Public Health Law Center, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health suggests that family child care homes have fewer state regulations that support breastfeeding and healthy beverage provision compared to child care centers. This is of concern as low-income families are more likely to rely on home child care providers than on centers to provide care for their young children. The authors conclude the study by encouraging policymakers to ensure state child care regulations are in place to help child care providers support breastfeeding families and to provide healthy beverages to all children, regardless of whether they are in a center or home. The study, titled "Alignment of State Regulations With Breastfeeding and Beverage Best Practices for Childcare Centers and Family Childcare Homes, United States", was published online on November 9, 2020 in the journal Public Health Reports. Study co-authors include NPI researchers Danielle Lee, Raquel Traseria, Sophia Navarro, Lorrene Ritchie, and policy director Ken Hecht; Natasha Frost of the Public Health Law Center; Sara Benjamin Neelon of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; and Angie Cradock of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

  • Nutrition standards in family child care settings published in 95th Nestle Nutrition Institute Workshop Series proceedings

    Nov 13, 2020

    Not all child care settings have nutrition standards for infants as they transition to toddlerhood. Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) researchers, in collaboration with Nourish California (previously known as California Food Policy Advocates), convened a group of science advisors and child care community advisors in 2015 to develop infant and toddler nutrition standards feasible for family child care home providers to implement. The process of developing nutrition recommendations on what foods and beverages to serve and how to feed infants and toddlers in licensed family child care home settings was published online on November 9, 2020, in a chapter featured in the Nestle Nutrition Institute Workshop Series, volume 95, titled "Building Future Health and Well-Being of Thriving Toddlers and Young Children". The 95th Nestlé Nutrition Institute Workshop, which took place as a 3-day virtual workshop in September 2020, explored the current scientific research of creating a healthy foundation for life in toddlers and young children. Co-authors of the chapter included NPI researchers Lorrene Ritchie and Danielle Lee, Elyse Homel Vital of the Childcare Food Program Roundtable (formerly with California Food Policy Advocates), and NPI-affiliated researcher Lauren Au of the University of California, Davis, Department of Nutrition. Ritchie's presentation from the workshop is also available online.

  • NPI study about perceptions and use of the Earned Income Tax Credit is presented at the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management Conference

    Nov 13, 2020
    Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) can provide up to $10,000 annually for qualifying California families, but estimates suggest that about 20% of eligible families do not receive the benefits. Wendi Gosliner, a researcher at the Nutrition Policy Institute, and her University of California (UC), Berkeley and UC San Francisco colleagues presented preliminary findings from a study exploring perceptions and use of the EITC among families with young children in California at the 2020 virtual Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) annual research conference on November 11, 2020. The study—which is being conducted virtually throughout California—is finding that about half of the eligible families do not know about and are not participating in the EITC. Even among families receiving the benefit, there is substantial confusion about why and how they received it. The study was co-presented at APPAM with study collaborators Lia Fernald of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and Rita Hamad of UC San Francisco.

  • Lorrene Ritchie quoted in UPI and The Washington Newsday articles on how to increase pre-school children’s interest in fruit and vegetables

    Nov 13, 2020

    Lorrene Ritchie, director and UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) specialist at the Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI), was quoted in an article on November 6, 2020 in UPI titled "Mindfulness-based program boosts preschoolers' interest in fruit, veggies" and another article on November 9, 2020 in The Washington Newsday titled "A program based on mindfulness increases preschool children's interest in fruit and vegetables." The articles highlight a recent study conducted by researchers at Purdue University on a mindfulness-based exercise program to encourage preschool children to make healthier food choices. Dr. Ritchie, who was not involved in the study, is quoted, "Repeated exposure of young children to fruits and vegetables is key to getting them to like them and eat them. It can take up to 20 times – and even more for some children – for a child to learn to like a new food, especially vegetables and other things that aren't sweet, salty or high in fat.”

  • Save the date: Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit hosted virtually by UC Davis, March 25-26, 2021

    We hope you will join us virtually for the 16th annual Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit on March 25-26, 2021. Universities Fighting World Hunger is a network of global universities working in partnership to amplify the voice of the rising generation, calling for a world free from hunger and malnutrition. This year's summit is hosted by the University of California (UC), Davis. The theme is One Health, One Planet, emphasizing the interdependency between food and climate change. More details about the summit will be available online soon. The Summit is being coordinated by the UC Global Food Initiative, UC Davis World Food Center, Universities Fighting World Hunger, and the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Nutrition Policy Institute.

  • Infographic on increasing drinking water availability in schools during COVID-19 and beyond released by Alliance for a Healthier Generation and National Drinking Water Alliance

    Nov 4, 2020

    The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires schools to make potable water available at no charge to students, wherever lunch is served, and when breakfast is served in the cafeteria. For school year 2020-2021, the United States Department of Agriculture allows some flexibilities but continues to require potable water be made available when lunch is served at school and encourages schools to make potable water available in all meal service locations, as safety permits. The National Drinking Water Alliance, coordinated by the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI), in collaboration with Alliance for a Healthier Generation, released a new infographic for schools to support increased access to drinking water for students. The infographic, titled "Increasing Drinking Water Availability in Schools During COVID-19 and Beyond", is available for download online. It showcases a variety of ways that schools can make water easily available throughout the campus. It includes tips and links to resources on ensuring safe access to drinking water for schools that are reopening, water testing and sanitation. The infographic also provides links to resources in English and Spanish for schools to promote drinking water to students and improve students' healthy hydration habits.

  • Fact sheet on boosting school meal participation released by NPI, Stanford Pediatrics and School Nutrition Association

    Nov 4, 2020

    School meals are an essential source of nutritious food for many children, particularly low-income children, across the nation, whether schools are providing in-person, distance or hybrid education during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, many districts are experiencing decreased participation in school meal programs. In an effort to support school districts in increasing school meal participation – and thus improve children's food security during the pandemic – the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) partnered with Stanford Medicine Department of Pediatrics and the School Nutrition Association to develop a fact sheet for school districts. Titled "Boosting School Meal Participation - Tips from Districts", it provides a checklist of strategies for school meal pick-ups, ways to offer more meals, keeping meals appealing, communication to families, and ideas for community partnerships. The fact sheet includes an update on nationwide waivers issued by the United States Department of Agriculture that provide flexibilities to school nutrition services during the pandemic. It also highlights resources from collaborating organizations including recipes and menu-planning, back-to-school and reopening planning, virtual nutrition education, and more. The fact sheet is available for download online. The authors of and contributors to the fact sheet, including NPI's Christina Hecht, are members of the ad hoc COVID-19 School Nutrition Implications Working Group, jointly supported by Healthy Eating Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Nutrition and Obesity Policy Research and Evaluation Network (NOPREN). This project was funded by the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund COVID-19 Response Cluster, managed by The Center at Sierra Health Foundation.

  • Systematic review and meta-analysis of childhood obesity interventions for preschool children aged 2-5 years

    Nov 2, 2020

    Extensive efforts to review the evidence of childhood obesity prevention programs have been made by the scientific community. However, most meta-analyses have included only randomized, control trials, do not allow for examination of sub-components of interventions, and do not examine sub-populations that may be impacted (or not) by interventions. Lorrene Ritchie, director and cooperative extension specialist of the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI), collaborated with researchers from across the United States to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis to fill these gaps. The systematic review and meta-analysis, and an accompanying paper describing the methods used to develop a taxonomy for childhood obesity interventions to use in the meta-analysis, were published in the journal Childhood Obesity. The review includes 51 studies evaluating 58 interventions that, overall, showed a lower BMI for preschool children participating in the interventions compared to children who did not receive interventions. The review and meta-analysis also suggest that the childhood obesity interventions that were most successful included engaging caregivers in praise/encouragement for positive health-related behavior; providing education about the importance of screen time reduction to caregivers; and engaging pediatricians and health care providers. The systematic review and meta-analysis were conducted in collaboration by Lori Scott-Sheldon, Larry Hedges, Chris Cyr, Deborah Young-Hyman, Mackenzie Magnus, Heather King, Sonia Arteaga, John Crawley, Christina Economos, Debra Hair-Joshu, Christine Hunter, Bruce Lee, Shiriki Kumanyika, Thomas Robinson and Marlene Schwartz. The taxonomy methods paper was written in collaboration by Heather King, Mackenzie Magnus, Larry Hedges, Deborah Young-Hyman, Laura Kettel Khan, Lori Scott-Sheldon, Jason Saul, Sonia Arteaga, John Cawley, Christina Economos, Debra Haire-Joshu, Christine Hunter, Bruce Lee, Shiriki Kumanyika, Thomas Robinson, and Marlen Schwartz.

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.