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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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  • Research brief: CalFresh Healthy Living interventions increase students’ fruit and vegetable consumption during COVID-19 school closures

    Sep 26, 2023

    A new research brief developed by the Nutrition Policy Institute outlines the results and implications of the 2020-21 study, “The impact of SNAP-Ed interventions on California students' diet and physical activity during COVID-19.” For many school-aged children in the United States, school closures prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the loss of consistent and reliable access to nutritious meals and opportunities for physical activity. Local health departments implementing the CalFresh Healthy Living program adapted their program delivery to continue to reach children with interventions that promote healthy eating and active living. In their study, NPI evaluators found that CalFresh Healthy Living interventions had a positive impact on students' fruit and vegetable intake. The study and research brief were authored by NPI's CalFresh Healthy Living Evaluation Unit, including Amanda Linares, Kaela Plank, Sridharshi Hewawitharana, Gail Woodward-Lopez, Miranda Westfall, Reka Vasicsek and Summer Cortez.

  • October 12 is Children’s Environmental Health Day!

    Sep 25, 2023

    City of Berkeley, Calif. Mayor Jesse Arreguin will proclaim Tuesday, October 12, 2023 as Children's Environmental Health Day in Berkeley. Nutrition Policy Institute's senior policy advisor Christina Hecht worked with the mayor's office to issue the proclamation. Berkeley joins communities and over 100 partner organizations across the nation in recognizing the importance of supporting and improving environmental health, particularly for children. Observed on the second Thursday of every October, CEH Day is meant to raise awareness and ignite actions that support and advance safe and healthy environments for all children. “The Children's Environmental Health Network applauds the work of our CEH Day partners and the important resources that they are for the families and communities,” says Nsedu Obot Witherspoon, executive director of the Children's Environmental Health Network. Check the CEH Day Events & Activities Map to see CEH Day events and activities taking place throughout the country. Healthy places to live, learn, and play—with clean air and water, safe and nutritious food, and stable climates—are critical for children's health and development and are central to NPI's mission. NPI also coordinates the National Drinking Water Alliance which includes a strong focus on children's drinking water safety and access.

  • Drinking water quality in California schools

    Sep 13, 2023

    Findings from a recent study indicate that most California schools are providing drinking water that meets current safety standards. However, the authors suggest that continued attention and investments are needed to assure tap water safety in all schools. Researchers partnered with 83 schools from a representative sample of 240 California public schools to collect and analyze tap water samples for five common drinking water contaminants: arsenic, nitrate, hexavalent chromium, copper and lead. The first three may occur naturally in groundwater but can also come from agricultural or industrial activities. Lead and copper are heavy metals that may be found in building plumbing and can be present in tap water under certain conditions. No tap water samples violated the California state action level for arsenic or nitrate, two contaminants that should be brought to levels at or below state standards by water utility treatment of their sourcewater. Four percent of schools had at least one sample that exceeded California's proposed 10 parts per billion action level for hexavalent chromium. Four percent of schools exceeded the 1300 ppb state action level for copper. A notable feature of the study was its detailed analysis of lead in tap water. Four percent of study schools had at least one first-draw tap water sample that exceeded the 15 ppb state action level for lead, 18% exceeded the US Food and Drug Administration's bottled water standard of 5 ppb, and 75% exceeded the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation of 1 ppb. Researchers found that turning on the affected taps to “flush” pipes for 45 seconds reduced observed lead concentrations above 15, 5, and 1 ppb to 2%, 10%, and 33% of schools, respectively. These findings provide valuable information for mitigating the presence of lead in tap water. The study, “A Comprehensive Examination of the Contaminants in Drinking Water in Public Schools in California, 2017-2022, was published online on September 4, 2023 in the journal Public Health Reports. It was conducted by researchers from the University of California's Nutrition Policy Institute, Stanford University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

  • NPI job openings: Assistant or Associate Project Scientists to support evaluation of California’s universal school meals program

    Sep 12, 2023

    The Nutrition Policy Institute at the University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources is seeking to hire two Assistant or Associate Project Scientists to support our work to evaluate California's universal school meals program. The positions will conduct literature reviews and develop research questions, hypotheses and study methods; develop participant recruitment and retention protocols and protocols for IRB submission; and design and conduct collaborative research and evaluation projects, including conducting quantitative and qualitative analysis. They will facilitate state and national interactions between researchers, policymakers, and diverse community groups. The positions will write grants, research reports and peer-reviewed publications and develop science-based policy and environmental solutions to lifestyle-related health problems for diverse populations. The salaries are $71,500 to $91,000 or $87,000 to $107,600 annually. The positions are based at our Oakland, California office and each is a one-year renewable term appointment with possible extension. More information about the positions and how to apply is available online. Application packets must be received by October 10, 2023 to ensure full consideration. The University of California is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

  • Study highlights how COVID-19 changed the eating behaviors of school-aged children in families with low-income in California

    Sep 1, 2023

    The article “Parent perceptions of changes in eating behavior during COVID-19 of school-aged children from Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) eligible households in California” was recently published in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports. The study examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the eating behaviors of school-aged children from households with low income eligible for the Supplemental Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) in California. Researchers assessed parent perceptions of changes in their children's eating habits throughout the pandemic, identifying shifts in dietary patterns that included a decreased use of school meals, and other changes observed by parents such as cooking at home, fast food, and fruits and vegetable consumption. The research underscores the need for tailored strategies in schools and at home to support the nutritional well-being of children during future public health emergency conditions. The study was led by Nutrition Policy Institute researchers Suzanne Rauzon, Sri Hewawitharana, Erin Esaryk, Hannah Thompson, Gail Woodward-Lopez, and California Department of Public Health co-authors Lauren Whetstone and Ingrid Cordon.

  • Offering no charge school meals to all students yields many benefits

    Aug 30, 2023

    Good nutrition, and improved health, attendance, academics, and school climate are some of the benefits when schools offer meals at no charge to all students. California and Maine, followed by six other states, have already enacted legislation to provide daily meals at school to all K-12 public school students, at no charge regardless of family income level. According to tracking by the Food Research and Action Center, over half of the remaining states are working to pass School Meals for All legislation. Additionally, a bill has been offered at the federal level. Researchers at the Nutrition Policy Institute, Arizona State University, the University of Connecticut, Boise State University and Merrimack College developed a summary of the evidence on the benefits of universal school meal programs. The researchers who developed the synopsis work collaboratively on evaluations of new state School Meals for All programs.

  • Nutrition Policy Institute and University of California endorse the Food for Thought Act to help end food insecurity at community colleges

    Aug 28, 2023

    Nearly 40% of community college students experience food insecurity and may skip meals because they can't afford to eat. The Nutrition Policy Institute, along with the University of California and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, endorsed the Food for Thought Act, bicameral legislation that would bring free meal programs to community college campuses and minority serving institutions—helping address food insecurity for students at those institutions. The Food for Thought Act will also provide funding to conduct campus outreach and provide information to participating students on eligibility for federal food assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and collect data on food insecurity on campuses to expand anti-hunger programming. Grant funding can also be used to update much needed food infrastructure on campus that students can use and build food pantries and community gardens on campus. The Food For Thought Act was introduced by Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and joined by Representative Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), and Senators Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) on July 20, 2023. The legislation has numerous co-sponsors in both the House and Senate and endorsements from experts in food insecurity and higher education.

  • NPI is seeking a part-time student communications fellow

    Aug 15, 2023

    The Nutrition Policy Institute is seeking a part-time student communications fellow. The fellow will educate the public and NPI stakeholders through written, visual, and online communications about nutrition policy, food security, federal food programs, childhood obesity prevention and other nutrition and food policy issues. This communications strategy includes creating content for our social media channels, maintaining and updating our website, and creating and disseminating newsletters on our latest research and policy efforts. Fellowship eligibility requirements include being a registered undergraduate or graduate student at an accredited college or university with a plan to remain enrolled for the duration of the award period or be a recent postgraduate; be a US Citizen, Permanent Resident, F1 or J1 Visa holder, or California AB540 student; have a minimum 3.0 GPA; be proficient in Microsoft 365 programs (Word, Excel, etc.) or their equivalent Google Apps; and be a first-generation college student or an underrepresented minority student in good academic standing. This fellowship is a 10-month commitment of approximately 10 hours per week beginning in September or October 2023 and can be completed remotely. A $4,000 stipend will be provided. Learn more about the fellowship and how to apply online. Applications are due by Monday, September 11, 2023, 11:59 PM PT.

  • Nutrition Policy Institute releases short training videos on what and how to feed young children in family child care homes

    Aug 15, 2023

    The University of California's Nutrition Policy Institute released brief training videos to aid family child care home providers in promoting proper nutrition among young children. Current California law mandates only an hour of nutrition training for child care providers licensed after 2015, omitting over 30,000 providers who care for nearly 310,000 children. To address this gap, NPI has unveiled seven brief videos, each under 60 seconds, in English and Spanish. These videos, which can be freely used by educators, align with evidence-based recommendations for what and how to feed infants and toddlers. They were developed for the one-hour online trainings, "Infant and Toddler Feeding Recommendations for Family Child Care Home Providers," available in Spanish as well. While California providers can access the trainings for free, those outside the state can access them for $15. Each training concludes with a completion certificate. The UC Nutrition Policy Institute collaborated with UCSF California Childcare Health Program, UCSF School of Nursing, UC Cooperative Extension, and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources News and Outreach in Spanish for this project, supported by a UC ANR grant.

  • Policy brief urges continuation of the WIC Cash Value Benefit increase

    Aug 9, 2023

    The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children—also known as WIC—serves nearly half of children born in the US at some point before their fifth birthday. WIC participation enhances food security, diet quality, and developmental outcomes of children. The program offers a Cash Value Benefit to purchase fruits and vegetables, and additional benefits to purchase other specific healthy foods. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cash Value Benefits were increased from $9 for children and $11 for women to $25 for children, $44 for pregnant and postpartum women and $49 for breastfeeding women in June 2021. These higher amounts will end on September 30, 2023 without Congressional action. The Nutrition Policy Institute and Heluna Health's Public Health Foundation Enterprises-WIC Program released a policy brief highlighting research showing that the increased Cash Value Benefit improves participants' produce purchases, fruit and vegetable consumption, food security and satisfaction with WIC, and increased sales for farmers and local retailers. Extension of this benefit is critical as one-in-seven participants reported they were somewhat or very unlikely to continue on WIC if benefits decrease.

Please see additional news items in our News section