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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.



April 24, 2019

Lorrene Ritchie presents on CACFP meal standards at 2019 National Child Nutrition Conference

Nutrition Policy Institute Director Lorrene Ritchie presents on Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) meal standards at the 2019 National Child Nutrition Conference. Her presentation is part of the “State Findings for New Meal Pattern Readiness” workshop on Wednesday, April 24, from 2 to 3 p.m. The workshop will cover the food environment in child care settings across four states (California, Mississippi, Georgia and Connecticut) and discuss progress on implementation of the updated CACFP meal patterns across the four states, as well as supports and barriers to implementing the updated meal patterns.


April 24, 2019

Christina Hecht presents ANR Spotlight Series Webinar on school drinking water

Nutrition Policy Institute Senior Policy Analyst Christina Hecht presents a webinar on school drinking water as part of the ANR Spotlight Series of webinars. The webinar takes place on April 24, at 11 a.m. Titled “School Drinking Water - What we should know and do,” the webinar covers negative effects on health of sugar-sweetened drinks, positive effects of drinking water, health impacts of contaminants in water and what steps you can take to make a difference. Findings from a collaborative study on testing lead in school drinking water, conducted by the Nutrition Policy Institute and the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University, will be discussed. The Zoom webinar can be accessed at; +1 669 900 6833 or +1 646 558 8656; Webinar ID: 751 701 428.


April 3, 2019

Lorrene Ritchie quoted in Washington Post about preferred dietary guidelines for children ages 0 to 2

A recent Washington Post article, What to feed your baby? New dietary guidelines weigh in on pregnant women, infants and young children featured quotes from Nutrition Policy institute Director Lorrene Ritchie. The article focused on the upcoming 2020 version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which for the first time will attempt to provide strong, evidence-based recommendations for pregnant women, infants and young children. “There was a time when we did not view 0 to 2 as a target for obesity prevention,” said Lorrene Ritchie, a nutrition and nutrition policy specialist in Berkeley, Calif. “We felt young children were much better at self-regulating. Obesity is the canary in the coal mine for health. It’s kind of like the climate change of public health.” The article continues: “It is too early to say what specific recommendations the committee will make, but Ritchie would like to see: a preference for breast-feeding over formula and beginning to transition to solid foods at around 6 months, with a focus on a diet that is mostly plant-based, low in sugar, salt and fat. Another shortcoming of current guidelines, she says, is that they give no recommendations for the consumption of water. (Most other countries include water guidelines). Even infants beginning at 6 months should be exposed to water in a cup. Optimally, the only beverages children should drink are milk and water, no other beverages artificially or naturally sweetened,” she said.


March 26, 2019

NPI Brown Bag: Ken Hecht on the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act

The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act authorizes all of the federal school meal and child nutrition programs that provide funding to ensure that low-income children have access to healthy and nutritious foods. The child nutrition programs touch millions of children each day and improve educational achievement, economic security, nutrition and health. The Nutrition Policy Institute's Policy Director Ken Hecht leads a discussion on the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act and potential changes to improve the current policy. 


March 21, 2019

NPI Brown Bag: Hannah Thompson on the impact of litigation on physical education and student fitness in California

Hannah Thompson PhD, MPH is a research scientist at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and an affiliated researcher at the UC ANR Nutrition Policy Institute. Her expertise is in the evaluation of programs related to physical activity and obesity. Her research focuses on identifying best practices to improve health outcomes, with a focus on children in communities at highest risk for inactivity and poor health. In this talk, she will discuss the benefits and limitations of using litigation to change educational practices and improve student health. Litigation has recently been used in California in an attempt to increase physical education (PE) provision in schools; several lawsuits have been filed against 129 school districts found to be noncompliant with state PE law.  Thompson will cover findings from two Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded studies examining 1) districts’ and schools’ perceptions of the lawsuits' impact on PE quantity and quality, as well as the unintended consequences of a litigious approach, and 2) the impact of these lawsuits on students' cardiorespiratory fitness. 


March 13 - 15, 2019

Nutrition Policy Institute presents at Healthy Eating Research annual grantee meeting

Nutrition Policy Institute staff attends the 13th annual grantee meeting organized by Healthy Eating Research (HER) in Detroit, Michigan, to present their research funded by HER. Lorrene Ritchie PhD, RD, director of NPI, presents with NPI Policy Analyst Dani Lee on “Infant Nutrition in California Child Care Centers and Homes Prior to Implementation of New CACFP Standards.” NPI Assistant Researcher Lauren Au PhD, RD,  discusses Diet Quality of U.S. Infants and Toddlers 7-24 Months Old in the WIC Infant and Toddler Feeding Practices Study-2,” and School Nutrition Successes and Opportunities for Improvement Post Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act: The Healthy Communities Study.” NPI Senior Policy Analyst Christina Hecht PhD presents with Angie Craddock ScD, MPE of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health on “Early Adopters: Current Practices and Preliminary Findings in States Adopting School-Based Water Quality Testing Programs.” Hecht also presents with Anisha Patel MD, MSPH, MSHS of Stanford University on “Testing Drinking Water in California Public Schools for Lead and Other Contaminants in the Context of an Obesity-Prevention Strategy.” Healthy Eating Research is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) that supports research on environmental and policy strategies that have strong potential to promote healthy eating among children, especially among lower-income and racial and ethnic populations at highest risk for obesity. Research is conducted in order to advance RWJF’s efforts to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic and help all children in the United States to grow up at a healthy weight.


March 8, 2019

CalHealthReport article on AB 842 mentions Nutrition Policy Institute research featured in California Agriculture

An article in CalHealthReport on AB 842: Child nutrition: school, childcare and preschool meals, a new law proposed by Assembly members Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara) and Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), cites Nutrition Policy Institute research, Communitywide strategies key to preventing childhood obesity, that was featured in California Agriculture. The CalHealth Report article goes on to quote NPI Director Lorrene Ritchie: “The link between healthy, sufficient food and early childhood learning is well established. We have determined that early childhood education is so important for grasping skills early on such as reading, but any child who is hungry can’t pay attention and is at risk for falling behind, and staying behind,” said Ritchie.


March 7, 2019

NPI Brown Bag: Suzanne Rauzon on trends in obesity and school prevention interventions

Suzanne Rauzon directs community-based prevention research projects that have a policy and environmental focus, particularly in schools. She is the study director of the Thriving Schools Initiative evaluation for Kaiser Permanente. In this talk, she will look at the recent trends in obesity, a decade of achievements in school interventions in obesity preventions, and what’s next. Suzanne holds degrees and credentials in communication technology, human nutrition and exercise physiology and has a masters in public health from the University of California, Berkeley. She is credentialed with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Academy of Sports Medicine.


March 6, 2019

Christina Hecht quoted in The Guardian about testing school drinking water for lead

A recent article in The Guardian on the lead contamination of drinking water in schools, A hidden scandal: America’s school students exposed to water tainted by toxic lead, includes results from a joint study by the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and the Nutrition Policy Institute, a tap water contamination map from the National Drinking Water Alliance website, and quotes NPI Senior Policy Analyst Christina Hecht: “Still, said Christina Hecht, a researcher with the University of California Nutrition Policy Institute, one of the key takeaways from her study of state lead testing policies is the wide variation in how lead is meant to be tested. The problem, ‘Calls out for federal attention.’” The article goes on to mention the billions of dollars it would take to remove lead from schools, but adds that the investment could save as much as $84 billion annually in health care costs.


March 1, 2019

Nutrition Policy Institute authors lead new study examining the contribution of WIC-eligible foods to the diet of toddlers

A new national observational study examines commonly consumed foods and estimates the proportion of WIC-eligible foods in the diet of 13- and 24-month-old toddlers. The study also assesses nutritional differences by WIC participation status at 24 months. Nutrition Policy Institute authors Lauren Au and colleagues Lorrene Ritchie, Klara Gurzo and Kaela Plank led the study. The results showed that at 13 and 24 months, most (60% and 63%, respectively) of the commonly consumed foods were eligible for purchase as part of the child WIC food package. WIC-eligible foods provided more than 40 percent of calories and close to 50 percent or more of other nutrients, and the contribution of WIC-eligible foods to overall micronutrient intake increased between 13 and 24 months. Children still on WIC at 24 months obtained a larger proportion of calories and most other nutrients from WIC-eligible foods than children no longer on WIC. The study concluded that WIC-eligible foods could contribute to the overall diet of toddlers enrolled in WIC prenatally or in early infancy. Further, there may be additional nutritional benefits of staying on the WIC program through 24 months.


February 28, 2019

NPI Brown Bag: Erica Gunderson on pregnancy and lactation: an early window into women's cardiometabolic health

Erica Gunderson PhD, MS, MPH, RD is a senior research scientist and epidemiologist in the Division of Research, Kaiser Permanente Northern California. She conducts longitudinal studies to better understand the relationship of pregnancy and lactation to the development of obesity-related metabolic diseases and cardiovascular disease in women. Her research focuses on gestational diabetes mellitus and modifiable risk factors to prevent progression to type 2 diabetes during midlife. She has led numerous studies based on the multi-center NHLBI NGHS and the CARDIA cohorts of young black and white women.


February 21, 2019

Kristine Madsen and Jennifer Falbe publish new study showing that soda consumption in Berkeley declined 52 percent after soda tax

Nutrition Policy Institute affiliated researchers Kristine Madsen and Jennifer Falbe have published a new study in the American Journal of Public Health showing that soda consumption in Berkeley declined 52 percent after the soda tax was implemented. The researchers' study is generating a lot of interest. KNEB, an ABC News Radio affiliate, quoted Madsen on the dangers of sugar-sweetened beverages: “Sugar-sweetened beverages are the single dietary item [that has been] shown to cause obesity.” Quoted by NPR, Madsen said, "It's a pretty high bar for public health to be able to say that something is causing a major epidemic," she says. "We can do that for sugar-sweetened beverages." UC Berkeley News also quoted Madsen: “This just drives home the message that soda taxes work. Importantly, our evidence comes from low-income and diverse neighborhoods, which have the highest burden of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, not to mention a higher prevalence of advertising promoting unhealthy diets.” She went on to say: “I really want to push back against this idea that taxes are the sign of a nanny state. They are one of many ways to make really clear what we value as a country. We want to end this epidemic of diabetes and obesity, and taxes are a form of counter-messaging, to balance corporate advertising. We need consistent messaging and interventions that make healthier foods desirable, accessible and affordable.”


February 21, 2019

Lauren Au provides update on the Farm Bill at Nutrition Leadership Network meeting

The Nutrition Policy Institute's Lauren Au provides an update on the Farm Bill and how it will affect nutrition assistance programs and the Registered Dietitician profession. Her talk is part of the Western Maternal Child Health Nutrition Leadership Network Meeting. The purpose of the Nutrition Leadership Network is to provide leadership training, support, technical assistance and opportunities for collaborative learning so that the practice of public health nutrition is strengthened across the western states. Learn more about Au's presentation.


February 20, 2019

Research to Action shares lessons learned from the Healthy Communities Study

The February 2019 issue of the Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) Research to Action news brief examines the Healthy Communities Study, a 10-year National Institutes of Health-funded study investigating the impact of community-based nutrition and physical activity programs on childhood obesity. Learn more about the largest national study of its kind and how it helps to inform future efforts to improve child diet and physical activity.


February 15, 2019

Lorrene Ritchie honored by Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior as Gold Author

In recognition of her many manuscripts published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB) during the last ten years, Lorrene Ritchie has been honored as a Gold Author. “We truly appreciate the excellent manuscripts you send,” Susan Pollock, managing editor of JNEB, noted.


February 14, 2019

NPI Brown Bag: Lauren Au on demystifying the grants process

Lauren Au, assistant researcher at the Nutrition Policy Institute, will lead an interactive grants workshop that will showcase examples from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She will cover the following topics:

  • Where do you find information about grants?
  • How do you choose which grants to apply for?
  • What is the scoring/funding level for RWJF or NIH grants?
  • What is an example timeline for grants to be funded?
  • What skillsets are important for successfully securing grant funding?


February 7, 2019

UC Global Food Initiative Healthy Vending Work Group publishes UC Healthy Vending Policy; NPI’s Janice Kao is co-chair of work group

The Nutrition Policy Institute is part of the UC Global Food Initiative Healthy Vending Work Group, which aims to improve access to healthy food and beverage options sold in vending machines for students and employees throughout the entire UC system. NPI’s Janice Kao is co-chair of the work group. Through research of existing healthy vending policies and extensive outreach with stakeholder groups throughout UC, the work group has developed the UC Healthy Vending Guidelines and a Best Practices Implementation Toolkit. See the UC Healthy Vending Policy section of our Resources page for more information.


January 31, 2019

NPI Brown Bag: Susan Watson on the evolution of CA4Health: From community transformation to community of practice

Susan Watson MPH, program director for both the CA4Health community of practice to advance chronic disease prevention and health equity across California, and the California Adolescent Health Collaborative that works to improve the wellness of youth across California, presents a special brown bag. She will discuss how CA4Health leveraged its role as a community transformation grantor focused on rural and smaller communities to become an inclusive statewide community of practice advancing chronic disease prevention and health equity across California. CA4Health did this by building capacity, increasing intersectional awareness and advocacy, and highlighting the importance of community voice in the democratization of health. Throughout her career, Watson has prioritized working on issues related to equity, community health, and the elimination of racial and ethnic disparities. Watch the presentation and view the slides.


January 9, 2019

New research from Harvard and NPI: Millions of children in the U.S. could be getting too much lead in the water they drink at school

Despite an uptick in awareness of and attention to the issue of lead in drinking water, many students in the U.S. attend public schools in states where not all taps are tested for lead, according to a report released today from the Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Nutrition Policy Institute at the University of California. Even among states that have a policy or program in place to test school drinking water for lead, the report finds there is notable variation in program development and protocols. The report, State Approaches to Testing School Drinking Water for Lead in the United States, describes the features of statewide initiatives in 24 states and the District of Columbia that were in operation between January 2016 and February 2018. A related research brief summarizes select characteristics of state-level policies and programs to test for lead in school drinking water. The report and research brief were funded by Healthy Eating Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


January 9, 2019

U.S. Government Accountability Office releases report on college student food insecurity

U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), ranking member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, and Ed Markey (D-MA), released a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) showing that college students around the country are struggling to afford food and basic nutrition. The report reviewed 31 studies on college student food insecurity, including studies conducted by the Nutrition Policy Institute. The report is the first time a federal government agency confirms that food insecurity is a widespread issue and recommends the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) take steps to help enroll potentially eligible students in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. GAO also found that almost 2 million at-risk students who were potentially eligible for SNAP were not currently receiving benefits. However, because many students are ineligible for assistance under SNAP, GAO also recommends further action is taken to address food insecurity on college campuses.


Please see additional news items in our News section

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