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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.
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:
- Improve benefit adequacy by increasing benefit levels.
- Modify eligibility and benefit formulas to better address high costs-of-living as well as the expenses associated with working (e.g., transportation, childcare).
- Improve customer service and communications.
- Do not disrupt SNAP benefits in the future.
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 meals, community 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.
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