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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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News

  • Newly validated Local School Wellness Policy Implementation site-level questionnaire for elementary schools developed by NPI researchers

    Jan 25, 2022

    Schools are an ideal setting for policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) approaches to childhood obesity prevention. An initial assessment of a school's health environment, policies, and practices is critical for planning and identifying priority PSE interventions, while reassessment can be used to identify measurable change for ongoing planning and evaluation purposes. School-based obesity prevention programs need an assessment that measures wellness policy implementation and compliance at the school level, as required by the Local School Wellness Policy Implementation Final Rule of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The assessment must comprehensively assesses school nutrition and physical activity practices, and have the measurement properties necessary to detect change over time and differences between schools. Nutrition Policy Institute researchers shared the development and psychometric testing of a site-level questionnaire for elementary schools that fills this gap in an article published December 20, 2021 in the journal Childhood Obesity. Elementary schools and their partners can use the new instrument to plan PSE interventions, measure obesity-prevention best practices and wellness policy implementation, and evaluate their progress towards achieving best practices in nutrition and physical activity. Study authors include researchers from the NPI CalFresh Healthy Living evaluation team, Carolyn Rider, Janice Kao, Sridharshi Hewawitharana, Christina Becker, Amanda Linares, and Gail Woodward-Lopez.  


  • NPI to conduct evaluation of California‚Äôs Free School Meals for All legislation with funding from the California state legislative office

    Dec 15, 2021

    California's Free School Meals for All (FSMFA) policy is a landmark investment in free school meals for all students that may reduce stigma and improve students' food security, diet, health, school attendance and academic performance. It will be implemented beginning in school year 2022-23. The University of California Nutrition Policy Institute received funding from the California state legislative office to assess the FSMA program and policy implementation through a formative evaluation to inform initial implementation, process evaluation to identify challenges and facilitators to optimize ongoing implementation, and outcome evaluation to quantify impacts on schools, students, families and communities over time. The four-year study began in October 2021 with NPI's Wendi Gosliner as principal investigator in collaboration with research team members Lorrene Ritchie, Christina Hecht and Ken Hecht. The NPI Research team is collaborating with multiple partners, including the California Department of Education, a variety of non-profit and community-based organizations that engage parents and students, as well as a team of national researchers studying the implementation of free school meals for all students in Maine.


  • First-of-its-kind report, surveying 26,000 WIC participants in 12 States, indicates need for post-pandemic flexibilities in WIC services

    Dec 14, 2021

    The National WIC Association, alongside researchers from the University of California Nutrition Policy Institute and Pepperdine University, released a new report that reveals high levels of satisfaction among participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) with adjustments made to program services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report includes results from a multistate survey conducted in spring 2021 of over 26,000 WIC participants across 12 State WIC Agencies including Colorado, Connecticut, Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia. This report complements and informs ongoing efforts to modernize WIC services to meet the needs of over 6.2 million WIC participants. Report authors include Lorrene Ritchie, Danielle Lee, and Lanxin Song from the UC Nutrition Policy Institute, independent consultant Linnea Sallack, Christina Chauvenet and Georgia Machell from the National WIC Association, Loan Kim from Pepperdine University, and Shannon E. Whaley from Public Health Foundation Enterprise-WIC. The report was funded by the National WIC Association, UC ANR, and The David and Lucille Packard Foundation.


  • NPI and National WIC Association to conduct evaluations in 5 states of WIC Cash Value Benefit increases for participants to buy fruit and vegetables

    Dec 8, 2021

    University of California Nutrition Policy Institute researchers will work with the National WIC Association to evaluate the effect of increases to the amount of money participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) receive to spend on fruits and vegetables. Participants receive a “Cash Value Benefit” (CVB) to buy a variety of vegetables or fruits up to the CVB amount. CVB amounts for all women and children on WIC were raised to $35 per month from the usual $9 or $11 from June-September 2021 with funding from the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Congressional appropriations enabled monthly CVB amounts to continue at $24 for all children through March 31, 2022. The new project will evaluate WIC participants' perceptions of the CVB amounts, household food security, and child fruit and vegetable intake before and after the increases using data collected from surveys of WIC participants across five State WIC Agencies including Connecticut, Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Nevada, New Hampshire and New Mexico. This project is part of a larger project titled, “Multi-State WIC Participant Satisfaction Survey Project: Learning from Program Adaptations During COVID” funded by the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, National WIC Association, and The David and Lucile Packard Foundation.


  • New policy brief shows more veggies and fruits for WIC families is a win for California and the nation

    Dec 6, 2021

    Researchers at Public Health Foundation Enterprise-WIC in partnership with the University of California Nutrition Policy Institute released a policy brief showing results of an increase in over $50 million across California on fruits and vegetables purchased by California families enrolled in WIC from June-September 2021. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is a USDA-funded program that provides healthy foods to low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants and children up to age 5. The vegetables and fruits in the WIC food package are issued as a “Cash Value Benefit” (CVB), enabling families to buy a variety of vegetables or fruits up to the CVB amount. CVB amounts for all women and children on WIC were raised to $35 per month from the usual $9 or $11 from June-September 2021 with funding from the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act. Congressional appropriations have enabled monthly CVB amounts to continue at $24 for all children and $43 or $47 for women, depending on their pregnant or lactating status, through March 31, 2022. NPI and PHFE-WIC researchers showed that nearly all of 1,673 Southern California WIC participants in surveyed reported the $9 value to be insufficient, whereas over three-quarters reported the $35 value to be just right. This project was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Healthy Eating Research Program.


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  • New study suggests that a strong drive for thinness during adolescence can lead to weight gain and compulsive eating in women in their adult years

    Nov 29, 2021

    A new study from University of California and University of Michigan researchers suggests that a drive for thinness during the critical developmental years of adolescence may have long-term effects in adulthood, contributing to a greater drive for thinness and weight gain in midlife in women. Researchers compared data from 623 women from when they were in their teens to approximately 20 years later when they were in their late thirties or early forties. The data were collected through the National Growth and Health Study, a population-based cohort study of White and Black girls recruited from several U.S. communities. The study was published in the journal Obesity in November 2021. Study authors include Barbara Laraia from UC Berkeley, Cindy Leung from the University of Michigan, Janet Tomiyama from UC Los Angeles, Lorrene Ritchie and Patricia Crawford from the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Nutrition Policy Institute, and Elissa Epel from UC San Francisco. The study was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and National Institute on Aging.


  • New study suggests Harvest of the Month curriculum increases fruit and vegetable intake in school children

    Nov 24, 2021

    New research from the University of California Nutrition Policy Institute suggests that a Harvest of the Month curriculum promoting fruit and vegetable intake, healthy beverage choices, physical activity, and the importance of local agriculture in school-aged children can improve school children's fruit and vegetable intake. Each lesson includes grade-appropriate math and English Language Arts activities addressing the California Common Core Standards. Researchers at NPI collaborated with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE) to evaluate an HOTM curriculum taught once per week for six weeks to over 140 fourth- through sixth-grade students in three schools. Students in the three schools receiving the HOTM curriculum showed greater increases in total fruit and vegetable intake, fruit intake, and 100% juice consumption, and preference for several types of fruits and vegetables compared to 210 students in one school that did not receive the curriculum. Focus group findings suggest students, parents and teachers were highly satisfied with the HOTM curriculum. These findings meet the USDA criteria for programs funded by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education, and schools are encouraged to coordinate with local and state agencies administering SNAP-Ed to integrate HOTM curriculum to expand their nutrition education and promotion efforts. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, adaptations for online curriculum delivery and the adoption of appropriate safety measures for taste-testing when in-person delivery occurs may be needed. The study, funded by the California Department of Public Health, was published in the Journal of School Health in August 2021. Authors include Ron Strochlic, Gail Woodward-Lopez, and Sridharshi Hewawitharana from NPI, Katharina Streng, Jackie Richardson, and Lauren Whetstone from CDPH, and Derek Gorshow from ACOE.


  • New study of Rethink Your Drink curriculum to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage consumption in high school students suggests targeting younger students may be more effective

    Nov 23, 2021

    New research from the University of California Nutrition Policy Institute suggests that a 4-week Rethink your Drink curriculum for high school students can improve high school students' use of Nutrition Facts labels and decrease their consumption of diet soda. The Rethink Your Drink curriculum, developed by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), promotes drinking water and a variety of healthy beverages instead of sugar-sweetened beverages and use of the Nutrition Facts label and Ingredient List to choose beverages with little or no added sugars. The curriculum was pilot-tested in three California high schools with over 220 students and compared to 92 students in two schools that did not receive the curriculum. Despite the positive impact on Nutrition Facts label usage and decreasing consumption of diet soda, there was only a small but not significant decrease in sugar-sweetened beverage intake by students receiving the curriculum compared to those that did not. These findings suggest that developing a curriculum that is effective for improving beverage consumption among high school students may be challenging. Interviews and surveys with teachers and focus groups with students suggest the curriculum could be shortened, made more engaging with interactive activities as well as taste-tests of healthy beverages, and that the curriculum be modified to target younger students to support earlier development of healthy beverage consumption habits. Researchers suggest the effectiveness of the Rethink Your Drink curriculum could be increased if paired with evidence-based policy, systems and environmental change strategies that eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from high-school students' environments. The study, funded by the CDPH, was published in the Health Education Journal in September 2021. Authors include Ron Strochlic, Gail Woodward-Lopez, Kaela Plank and Sridharshi Hewawitharana from NPI, and Jackie Richardson and Lauren Whetstone from CDPH.


  • Nutrition Policy Institute welcomes Caroline Long

    Nov 17, 2021

    The Nutrition Policy Institute welcomed Caroline Long to the team on October 14, 2021 as a project policy analyst. Long graduated in May 2021 from UC Berkeley with a master in public health nutrition and a graduate certificate in food systems. Long will work with Wendi Gosliner on NPI projects related to the California Nutrition Incentive Program and the Healthy Stores Refrigeration Grant Program.


  • New study: delayed introduction of sugar-sweetened beverages in the first two years of life is associated with better diet quality

    Nov 10, 2021

    Current recommendations encourage caregivers of young children to delay the introduction of sugar-sweetened beverages–beverages with added sugars such as soda, sweetened fruit drinks like lemonade, sweetened teas, and sports drinks–until after the child turns two-years old. A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior by University of California researchers further supports this. When researchers evaluated the diet of over 2200 young children across the nation enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants and Children–also known as WIC–they found that those given SSBs during the first two years of life had lower diet quality at three years old. In contrast, the researchers found that delaying the introduction of 100% fruit juice during the first two years of life was not associated with lower diet quality. Study authors include Isabel Thompson, Patrick Bradshaw, and Mahasin Mujahid from UC Berkeley, Lorrene Ritchie from the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Nutrition Policy Institute, and Lauren Au from UC Davis. Researchers used data from the WIC Infant and Toddler Feeding Practices Study-2, a federal study conducted with funding from the US Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service.


Please see additional news items in our News section

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