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

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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
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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: How Low-Income Parents Use Food to Create Meaningful Social Experience, February 6, 12pm

Caitlin Daniel, a postdoctoral researcher with the Nutrition Policy Institute and University of California, Berkeley Sociology Department will present at the next NPI Brown Bag on Thursday, February 6 at 12:00 noon on "How Low-Income Parents Use Food to Create Meaningful Social Experience". Drawing on interviews and grocery-shopping observations, this talk shows how low-income families use food for social and symbolic reasons: to make their children happy, to convey care, and to feel like competent caregivers. It discusses how attending to the social dimensions of food choice complements structural and material perspectives that emphasize access, money, and time. Dr. Daniel is a sociologist who examines how parents across the socioeconomic spectrum decide what to feed their children, with a focus on the interactions between parents' economic resources and their ideas about food. Her work integrates insights from cultural sociology, public health, and behavioral economics. Currently, she is writing a book under contract with Columbia University Press. The Brown Bag talk will take place at the UC Berkeley Way West building, room 5401, 2121 Berkeley Way, Berkeley. 


Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2020 at 9:30 AM

Free online professional development class: Healthy Beverages in Early Care & Education

The University of California is providing a free online course, Healthy Beverages in Early Care & Education, in English and Spanish for child care providers in California. This 30-minute online class is a fun and interactive way to learn about the latest recommendations for healthy beverages for children and help child care providers meet the requirements of the California Healthy Beverages in Child Care Act (AB 2084). Providers outside of California may have similar beverage requirements. All young children, regardless of licensing or Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) requirements, can benefit from consuming healthy beverages.

The class includes videos, short quizzes, activities, and covers topics such as milk, types of fruit juice, and reading nutrition labels. A professional development certificate will be provided upon completion. The course is available for child care providers outside of California for a $15 fee. A promotional toolkit is available in English and Spanish to help community-based organizations and stakeholders share the online training with child care providers in their communities. This toolkit contains messages, social media postings, and images to help organizations and individuals reach out to a variety of child care audiences. This class was developed by the UCSF School of Nursing, California Childcare Health Program in partnership with the UC Nutrition Policy Institute and Cooperative Extension, with support from a grant by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 at 9:34 AM

Nutrition Policy Institute receives two grants from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Healthy Eating Research program

Nutrition Policy Institute is collaborating with The Brigham and Women's Hospital, Inc. and Public Health Foundation Enterprises (PHFE), Inc. on two projects funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Healthy Eating Research Program, as announced today. NPI's Christina Hecht and Laura Vollmer, of  NPI's National Drinking Water Alliance, received funding to collaborate with Sonya Shin at the Brigham and Women's Hospital, Inc. on a project to expand and evaluate a community-based intervention to increase healthy beverage consumption by Navajo preschool children. The second project is a collaboration between NPI's Lorrene Ritchie and Lauren Au with Shannon Whaley of PHFE Women, Infants and Children (WIC) on a project that will pilot test and evaluate an expansion ofWIC's $9 per month cash value benefit for the purchase of fruits and vegetables to $23 per month. These research teams are being funded through Healthy Eating Research's annual call for proposals. This call for proposals focused exclusively on children ages 0-8, and the resulting projects focus on a range of topics, including WIC, healthy beverage consumption, and food purchasing patterns.

Posted on Monday, February 3, 2020 at 9:33 AM

Nutrition Policy Institute receives grant to study Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income California families

Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) Senior Researcher and Policy Advisor Wendi Gosliner, in collaboration with Professor Lia Fernald at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, received a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Equity-Focused Policy Research grant to understand the reasons for disparities in access to income support, particularly among urban Latinx and African American populations and among rural whites in California. Dr. Gosliner will work with Dr. Fernald specifically to evaluate levels of awareness, barriers to uptake, and the benefits of participation in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) among families with children ages 0-5 years old in three California counties - Los Angeles, Alameda, and Merced. The two-year project will be completed in November 2021.

Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2020 at 12:00 PM

UC Nutrition Policy Institute is seeking to hire a chief business officer

The chief business officer manages the administrative operations of the Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI), a research institute with a staff of approximately 30-40 academic, staff and student positions funded predominately by grants from large foundations, health care institutions or government agencies. Administrative oversight activities include up to 20-40 grants and contracts, human resources management, internal and external communications, complex budget, accounting and payroll oversight, general office management (IT, telecommunications, facilities, data management, travel, leadership team support), and operational strategic planning. This position supervises a team of 3 professional administrative staff members. Previous experience working within the University of California system is desired. The job is located at the NPI research office in downtown Berkeley, CA. Apply online. This job posting will close on 02/05/2020.

Posted on Friday, January 24, 2020 at 3:37 PM

NPI's National Drinking Water Alliance provides drinking water input for the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee

A comment composed by members of the National Drinking Water Alliance was signed by 62 individuals and 13 organizations and submitted to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) for the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs). The comment urged the DGAC to include in their report, strong language recommending that the new 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans state explicitly and unequivocally that water should be first for thirst and should be consumed in place of sugar-sweetened beverages. Further, the comment urges the needed steps be taken to add a symbol for water to the MyPlate graphic. Read the full comment here. The National Drinking Water Alliance is coordinated by  the Nutrition Policy Institute. Learn more about the drinking water input at the National Drinking Water Alliance website.

Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2020 at 10:00 AM

New study from Nutrition Policy Institute shows childhood obesity prevention programs are not associated with unhealthy dieting patterns

Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) researchers published a new study suggesting childhood obesity prevention programs are not associated with unhealthy dieting in children and may in fact improve children's satisfaction with their body weight. The study was published in Pediatric Obesity by lead author Colleen Plimier from the University of California (UC), Berkeley School of Public Health, along with co-authors Sridharshi Hewawitharana, Karen Webb, Lauren Au, and Lorrene Ritchie from NPI, and Dianne Neumark‐Sztainer from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. Study data were from 130 communities and over 5,000 children and their families from across the United States as part of the Healthy Communities Study, a six-year observational study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Posted on Thursday, January 9, 2020 at 4:10 PM

December 5, 2019 

Lorrene Ritchie quoted in UPI article on nutrition education in schools 

A recent UPI article, CDC: Schools Aren't Doing Enough to Teach Kids About Nutrition, examining the latest U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report on food and nutrition education in schools featured an interview with Nutrition Policy Institute Director, Lorrene Ritchie. Dr. Ritchie stated that "health education has never been a priority in American schools... so it's not shocking we're in dire straits when it comes to nutrition."


December 2, 2019

NPI submits letter to USDA to oppose proposed SNAP regulations on household heating and cooling expenses which could cause one of eight California participants to lose eligibility 

Recently proposed new rules for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), CalFresh in California, would cause nearly 26 percent of California SNAP participants to lose benefits while only 14 percent would gain benefits if enacted, as estimated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The proposed rule would standardize the methodology for calculating a household's heating and cooling expenses, also known as the standard utility allowance (SUAs), which is taken into consideration when determining program eligibility.

Nutrition Policy Institute's (NPI) director, Lorrene Ritchie, and director of policy, Ken Hecht, submitted a public comment to USDA in opposition of the proposed rule. In their comment, they state that most of California’s SNAP participants live in areas of the state experiencing notoriously high costs of living so their utility expenses are likely to be high. They also commented that the proposed rule would have negative impacts on California's economy, given the estimated $4.5 billion reduction in SNAP spending over five years.

Ritchie and Hecht voiced concern about low-income children participating in the school meal program as well. "The impact would be felt in school meal participation," commented Ritchie and Hecht, "as fewer students would be directly certified for free school meals and fewer schools and school districts would qualify for universal meals through the community eligibility provision." Public comments were due on or before December 2, 2019.


November 25, 2019

New NPI report captures participants' experiences when government shutdown caused disruption in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits

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 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 wellbeing. Data were collected February and March 2019 in four focus groups with low-income adults in Los Angeles, Tuolumne, San Mateo, and San Francisco.

Participants 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.

Participant recommendations for SNAP:

  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. Do not disrupt SNAP benefits in the future.

Read more in the research brief and full report.


November 21, 2019

NPI Brown Bag: Building on low-income consumer perspectives and practices to inform healthy retail interventions

Sridharshi Hewawitharana, data analyst with the Nutrition Policy Institute, presented findings from three projects funded by the California Department of Public Health, Nutrition Education & Obesity Prevention Branch (NEOP) projects: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Participant Voices; Communities of Excellence in Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Prevention (CX3); and a healthy retail literature review. She outlined the barriers low-income consumers face to healthful eating, the strategies they use to address those barriers, and the evidence regarding healthy retail interventions. View the presentation and read the slides.


Thursday, November 14, 2019

New study suggests installing drinking water stations at community sites may increase water consumption by rural California communities with unsafe drinking water

Community sites in Kern County, Calif. received new, public drinking water bottle filling stations in one of the first studies to look at how promoting and increasing access to safe drinking water in non-school settings in communities with non-potable drinking water impacts community-level water consumption. Christina Hecht, PhD, of the National Drinking Water Alliance coordinated by the Nutrition Policy Institute, was co-investigator on the study. Results from the study were published on November 14, 2019 in Preventing Chronic Disease. Researchers found that, compared to sites with traditional drinking fountains, community members at sites with the new water filling stations drank more water. This increase in water consumption was higher in sites that received a $500 stipend, a toolkit of promotional activities, and technical assistance to promote the new water filling stations. Promotional activities varied by site and included purchasing cups to have on site or reusable water bottles to give away, displaying banners and posters about the health benefits of drinking water, distributing stickers promoting drinking of water, and more. 


November 3-7, 2019

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, 2019

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.


Please see additional news items in our News section

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