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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

  • Study finds that SNAP-Ed interventions modified during the COVID-19 pandemic increased student fruit and vegetable intake

    Jan 30, 2023

    The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed), known as CalFresh Healthy Living (CFHL) in California, is the largest nutrition education program in the United States. CFHL supports healthy eating and active living in eligible California communities through direct education and policy, systems, and environmental changes, with a large portion of program activities taking place in schools.  When the COVID-19 pandemic forced K-12 school closures, school-based in-person CFHL programming was adapted for online delivery.  A new study examined the impact of modified CFHL program delivery during COVID-19 on dietary intake and physical activity among students in 47 intervention and 17 comparison schools. Researchers found that participation in CFHL during school closures significantly increased student fruit and vegetable intake. Findings demonstrate the protective effect of comprehensive nutrition and physical activity education programs during emergency social distancing measures. This study, published in the Public Health Nutrition Journal, was conducted by Amanda Linares, Kaela Plank, Sridharshi Hewawitharana, and Gail Woodward-Lopez of the Nutrition Policy Institute with funding from the USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education.


  • New study shows variation of WIC participants’ perceptions and satisfaction with WIC nutrition education and services by race, ethnicity, and language preference

    Jan 25, 2023

    The federal Special Supplemental Nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, aims to safeguard the health of over 6 million low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5 in the United States by providing nutritious foods, information on healthy eating, and referrals for additional services. Nutrition education is an essential feature of WIC, making it unique compared to other federal nutrition programs. Researchers evaluated differences in WIC participants' perceptions and satisfaction with WIC nutrition education and services by race, ethnicity, and language preference in a sample of nearly 3000 California WIC participants surveyed in 2019. Spanish-speaking Hispanic participants reported the highest levels of satisfaction with WIC nutrition education compared to other groups. Hispanic participants were also more likely to change their behaviors after receiving WIC nutrition education compared to non-Hispanic White and Black participants. Participants prefer to receive WIC nutrition education through a variety of methods including in-person one-on-one, video/DVD, online, group sessions, and two-way text messaging. Across all groups, participants reported that the fruits and vegetables they receive in the child WIC food package was the top reason for continuing to participate in WIC. These findings can inform efforts to improve WIC participant retention. The study was published in the journal Nutrients. Study contributors include Alana Chaney and Lauren Au from UC Davis, Lorrene Ritchie and Marisa Tsai from the UC Nutrition Policy Institute, Shannon Whaley, Catherine Yepez, and Martha Meza from Public Health Foundation Enterprises-WIC, a program of Heluna Health, Hallie Randel-Schreiber from the San Francisco Department of Public Health, and Susan Sabatier and Adrian Young from the California Department of Public Health, WIC Division. The research was funded by The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the California Department of Public Health WIC Division.


  • University of California researchers release new, user-friendly fact sheets on sugary drinks

    Jan 18, 2023

    University of California's Research Consortium on Beverages and Health, with support from the American Heart Association, has released six short fact sheets to help educate both community members and decision-makers on the risks of over-consumption of sugary drinks. The fact sheets aim to provide the evidence base, expressed in simple talking points:

    The Consortium is comprised of faculty working across the field of sugar science from all ten UC campuses and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. The Consortium is coordinated by the Nutrition Policy Institute under the leadership of Christina Hecht, Ken Hecht, and Pat Crawford. Please contact Ken Hecht for more information about the Consortium and Christina Hecht for additional resources for community education on healthy beverage choices.


  • NPI job opening: Research Data Analyst

    Jan 17, 2023

    A Research Data Analyst 3 position is available at the Nutrition Policy Institute, University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources, located in Oakland, CA. This position will support evaluation studies conducted by NPI through its CalFresh Healthy Living contract with the California Department of Public Health. In California, SNAP-Ed is called CalFresh Healthy Living (CFHL) and is the largest nutrition education and obesity prevention program in the United States, with more than one-third of California residents eligible for CFHL. The Research Data Analyst 3 position requires the ability to independently perform data analysis, data management, data visualization, and reporting of organizational, policy and environmental data and individual-level data for studies of nutrition, physical activity and obesity. This position is a contract appointment that is 100% fixed through September 30, 2023. The pay scale is $6,908.33 to $9,800.00 per month. More information and instructions on how to apply are available online. The University of California is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, age, protected veteran status or other protected categories covered by the UC nondiscrimination policy.


  • New data brief demonstrates how an increase to the WIC cash value benefit affected fresh fruit and vegetable redemption trends

    Jan 12, 2023

    A new research brief from the Nutrition Policy Institute and PHFE-WIC researchers shows that an increase in the WIC cash value benefit (CVB) enabled WIC participants to introduce more fresh fruits and vegetables to their diets. The CVB was increased in June 2021, from $9 per month to $35 per month per child, and later revised to $24 per month per child in October 2021. After adjustment for inflation, the WIC CVB will remain at $25 per month through September 2023. The data brief represents findings from a larger study of over 2,700 WIC participants in Southern California, which recorded experiences and perceptions of the COVID-related increase to the WIC CVB. Data show that as CVB amounts increased, WIC participants spent more money on fruits and vegetables, and purchased a greater variety of fruit and vegetables. Results support permanent increases to the CVB to increase access to nutritious fruits and vegetables by low-income families. The brief was developed by Catherine Yepez, Christopher Anderson, and Shannon Whaley of PHFE-WIC, a program of Heluna Health, in collaboration with Lauren Au of the University of California, Davis, Department of Nutrition, and Marisa Tsai and Lorrene Ritchie of the Nutrition Policy Institute at the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. This research was supported by Healthy Eating Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Grant No. 77239).


  • New NPI report and brief share results from the CDFA Healthy Stores Refrigeration Grant Program

    Jan 9, 2023

    Lack of refrigeration is reported as a leading barrier to corner stores stocking fresh fruits and vegetables. In 2018, the California legislature funded the Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to offer a Healthy Refrigeration Grant Program, providing grants to corner stores in food resource-poor neighborhoods to purchase refrigeration units to increase access to California-grown fruits and vegetables. A new report from NPI shows storeowners that participated in the program perceived increases in their store's ability to sell produce after installing the CDFA refrigerator. Storeowners reported the CDFA refrigerator allowed them to waste less produce and increase the variety and freshness of produce they sell. Of the 51 storeowners that participated in the study, only 14% reported “lack of refrigeration” as a barrier to stocking fresh fruits and vegetables after participating in the program, compared to 51% before participating in the program. The findings are also summarized in a two-page policy brief. Report and brief authors include Carolyn Chelius and Wendi Gosliner from the UC Nutrition Policy Institute, as well as former NPI intern Caroline Long and volunteer Taylor Baisey from UC Berkeley. The work was funded by CDFA.


  • NPI job opening: Project Policy Analyst 4, CalFresh Healthy Living Evaluation Unit Manager

    Dec 16, 2022

    A Project Policy Analyst 4 position is available at the Nutrition Policy Institute, University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources, located in Oakland, CA. This position will serve as the Unit Manager for NPI's CalFresh Healthy Living contract with the California Department of Public Health. In California, SNAP-Ed is called CalFresh Healthy Living (CFHL) and is the largest nutrition education and obesity prevention program in the United States, with more than one-third of California residents eligible for CFHL. Under the supervision of the Director of NPI's CalFresh Healthy Living Evaluation Unit, the Unit Manager will provide overall coordination and management of the Unit's projects and activities that aim to understand the process, outcomes, and impact of the CalFresh Healthy Living program. The Unit manager will ensure the activities defined in NPI's contract with the CDPH are executed and deliverables are met in a timely and rigorous fashion. This position is a career appointment that is 100% fixed. The pay scale is $82,900 to $117,600 per year. To assure full consideration, applications must be received by January 13, 2023. The University of California is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, age, protected veteran status or other protected categories covered by the UC nondiscrimination policy.


  • The ACCESS Study investigates take-up of the Earned Income Tax Credit among eligible Californians

    Dec 16, 2022

    The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) lifts more families with children out of poverty than any other social safety net support in the United States. The EITC and the CalEITC provide income support up to $6000 for qualifying economically disadvantaged California families, but studies suggest that at least 20% of eligible families are not accessing the benefits. The Assessing California Communities' Experiences with Safety Net Supports Survey (ACCESS) study was launched to understand awareness, access, and barriers to EITC take-up. A recent ACCESS publication shows that among 411 EITC-eligible California female caregivers of young children interviewed from August 2020 to April 2021, 9% did not receive EITC benefits because they did not file taxes. Another 16% did file taxes but did not get the EITC despite being eligible. The people least likely to receive the EITC may be those who would benefit from it most: people who speak a primary language other than English, younger parents/caregivers, and those with lower incomes. Differences in EITC receipt were found according to how tax filers filed their taxes. The paper, published in the Health Affairs Journal, was written by co-first authors Wendi Gosliner from the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Nutrition Policy Institute and Rita Hamad from UC San Francisco, as well Erika Brown, Mekhala Hoskote, Kaitlyn Jackson from UC San Francisco, and senior author Lia Fernald from UC Berkeley. The research was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with additional support from the Tipping Point Foundation and the UC Berkeley Population Center.


  • NPI director to serve on National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine committee to review interventions to improve infant and toddler feeding behaviors

    Dec 14, 2022

    Lorrene Ritchie, director of the Nutrition Policy Institute, will serve as an ad-hoc committee member for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine study on Complementary Feeding Interventions for Infants and Young Children under Age 2: Scoping of Promising Interventions to Implement at the Community or State-Level. The committee is tasked to conduct a scoping review and assess available information on interventions aimed at improving infant and young child feeding behaviors. The project is sponsored by the US Department of Health and Human Services – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additional committee members include committee chair David A. Savitz from Brown University Alpert Medical School and Frank R. Greer from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, Laura E. Caulfield from The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Elizabeth Yakes Jimenez from the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Valerie J. Flaherman from the University of California, San Francisco Institute for Health Policy Studies, Rafael Pérez-Escamilla from the Yale School of Public Health, Charlene M. Russell-Tucker from the Connecticut State Department of Education and Shannon E. Whaley from Heluna Health Public Health Foundation Enterprises-WIC.


  • NPI welcomes Reka Vasicsek as new program assistant

    Dec 13, 2022

    Reka Vasicsek joined the Nutrition Policy Institute on December 6, 2022 as a program assistant. She received her bachelor's degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in French and Spanish literature and obtained her master's degree in human nutrition with a specialization in public health from the University of Glasgow. Reka is passionate about working at the intersection of nutrition, public health, and social justice and working with communities to mitigate the impact of climate change on food security. Her past research focused on the cardiometabolic impacts of fiber supplementation, as well as iodine bioavailability after modulation of the gut microbiome. She has experience assessing school lunch programs and previously worked with Friends of the Earth's climate-friendly school food team. Reka brings her experience to NPI to support operational and research project functions. She will work collaboratively with NPI researchers and business departments at the University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources and other UC and non-UC locations.


Please see additional news items in our News section