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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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Be sure to sign up to receive Research to Action, the Nutrition Policy Institute's quarterly news brief providing information on research, policy, news, announcements, events, articles and action items focused on nutrition and healthy communities.


  • Nutrition Policy Institute receives $2.4 million in 2022-23 California State Budget to evaluate school meals for all

    Jul 1, 2022

    California was the first state to adopt a policy to provide school meals, free of charge, to all students after the federal COVID provisions expired this summer. Beginning school year 2022-23, California's Universal Meals Program for school children—also known as school meals for all—will continue to serve school meals free of charge to all students, as mandated on July 9, 2021 by AB 130 (McGuire). The University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Nutrition Policy Institute received $2.4 million in one-time funding to evaluate school meals for all in California as part of the 2022-23 California State Budget. NPI's Wendi Gosliner is principal investigator of the project in collaboration with research team members Lorrene RitchieMonica Zuercher, Christina Hecht and Ken Hecht. The NPI research team is collaborating with multiple state partners, including the California Department of Education and a variety of non-profit and community-based organizations that engage parents and students as well as national partners working to understand the roll out of school meals for all in Maine and Vermont. Preliminary results from ongoing NPI California school meals for all research has already informed CDE and other state and national school meal stakeholders about the opportunities and challenges as well as resources needed to provide healthy and appealing school meals to all students.

  • Job opening: Director of the NPI CalFresh Healthy Living Evaluation Unit

    Jun 23, 2022

    A position is available at the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI), Oakland, Calif. for Director of the NPI CalFresh Healthy Living Evaluation Unit. This position directs the work under contract with the California Department of Public Health to evaluate and inform the SNAP-Ed efforts of local health departments in California. The Director of the NPI-CFHL Evaluation unit provides strategic leadership and expertise on program development, research and evaluation activities to inform and improve policies and practices related to nutrition and physical activity behaviors and obesity prevention primarily in California. This position is expected to lead and oversee a complex, multi-component, and multi-million-dollar state-wide evaluation of a SNAP-Ed program with an impact on the national program, play a leadership role on additional regional, state and national research and evaluation programs as needed, and facilitate and develop new funding opportunities and partnerships. This position also provides leadership for future proposals and strategic planning for NPI with impact at the regional, state and national levels. Additional duties include budget development and management, management of project deliverables, and priority setting. Applications are due by Monday, July 18, 2022.

  • New USDA “Feeding My Baby” fifth-year report shows longer participation in WIC improves children’s diet quality

    Jun 21, 2022

    The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) published the “Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Infant and Toddler Feeding Practices Study-2: Fifth Year Report”. The WIC Infant and Toddler Feeding Practices Study-2 (WIC ITFPS-2), also known as the “Feeding My Baby” Study, is the only national study to capture data on caregivers and their children over the first 5 years of the child's life after enrollment in WIC, regardless of their continued participation in the program. The study also conducts additional follow-ups with children at ages 6 and 9. There were several key findings from the study. Families who remain in WIC during children's fifth year of life report continued participation because of the food they receive, the education and information they receive, and that WIC staff listen to their thoughts about their child's health. Children who consistently participate in WIC through their fifth year of life have better overall diet quality, on average, than children who only participated in their second and third years of life. When compared to children not receiving WIC or SNAP, children participating in WIC but not SNAP at age 54 months are more likely to meet recommendations for limiting added sugar intake. The study was conducted by Christine Borger, Thea Zimmerman, Jill DeMatteis, and Bibi Gollapudi, and Laurie May from Westat, Shannon Whaley from Public Health Foundation Enterprises-WIC, Lorrene Ritchie from the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Nutrition Policy Institute, and Lauren Au from UC Davis. The study was conducted under Contract AG-3198-B-11-0020, Order Number AG-3198-K-15-0050, supported by U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service.

  • NPI researchers present at ASN’s Nutrition Live Online 2022 on improvements to WIC to support participant food security and on access to school meals during COVID-19

    Jun 8, 2022

    The American Society for Nutrition's annual conference, Nutrition 2022 Live Online, happens virtually June 14-16, 2022. Nutrition Policy Institute researchers will share results at the conference from their latest studies on the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Marisa Tsai will speak about ‘Larger WIC Cash Value Benefit for Vegetables and Fruit Is Associated With Lower Food Insecurity and Improved Participant Satisfaction in WIC Families With Children'; co-authors include Lorrene Ritchie from NPI. Amanda Linares will present a poster on ‘Association of Frequency of School Meal Consumption and Student Dietary Intake during COVID-related School Closures'; co-authors include Kaela Plank, Sridharshi Hewawitharana and Gail Woodward-Lopez from NPI. Both Tsai and Linares' presentations are available on-demand. University of California, Davis graduate student Alana Chaney will present live, online a poster on ‘Addressing Barriers to WIC Participation During COVID-19: A Qualitative Examination of California WIC Participants and Local Agency Directors'; co-authors include Lorrene Ritchie, Marisa Tsai and Nicole Vitale of NPI.

  • NPI submits proposed questions to inform the development of the 2025-2030 Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2025

    Jun 8, 2022

    Development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2025-2030 (DGA) is underway. The US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture recently asked for public comments on the proposed scientific questions to be examined in the review of evidence supporting the development of the DGA. Nutrition Policy Institute's senior policy advisor, Christina Hecht, submitted comments to the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture regarding scientific questions related to sugar-sweetened beverages and drinking water to be examined to support the development of the DGA. The public comment period was open from April 15 to May 16, 2022. Public comments are available to the public online through Regulations.gov. HHS and USDA will consider all public comments posted to Regulations.gov in relation to the specified criteria. Comments will be used to prioritize the scientific questions to be examined by the 2025 DGA Advisory Committee. In the coming months, HHS and USDA will seek nominations from the public for the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Sign up to receive email updates on the DGA development process and other related news.

  • New study shows campus food pantry use is linked to better health for college students

    Jun 7, 2022

    University of California researchers have found that campus food pantries may help improve college students' overall well-being, including mental and physical health and sleep sufficiency, especially for those experiencing food insecurity. Study results from a 2019 online survey of 1,855 University of California students that used their campus food pantries showed that students who visited their campus food pantry more frequently reported improved perceived health, improved mental health (fewer depressive symptoms), and improved sleep sufficiency. The study was published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior by principal investigator Suzanna Martinez from the UC San Francisco Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, along with co-authors Gwen Chodur from UC Davis, Erin Esaryk from UCSF and the UC Nutrition Policy Institute, Sevan Kaladjian from UC Irvine Center for Educational Partnerships, Lorrene Ritchie from the UC NPI, and Michael Grandner from the University of Arizona Department of Psychiatry. The study was funded by the state legislature to the University of California Basic Needs Initiative.

  • NPI is seeking a part-time communications fellow as part of the UC Global Food Initiative student fellowship program

    Jun 6, 2022

    The Nutrition Policy Institute at the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources is seeking a part-time Communications Fellow who can manage and grow our digital presence and provide general communications support. This opportunity is part of the UC Global Food Initiative 2022-2023 Student Fellowship Program. In addition to working with the NPI team, the NPI GFI Student Fellow will participate in systemwide activities. This fellowship is an excellent opportunity for a current UC graduate student to develop their health and policy communications skills while gaining exposure to a team of public health nutrition researchers and food policy experts. This is a 10-month commitment (September 2022 – June 2023) and is a remote position requiring approximately 15-20 hours monthly with a $3,000 stipend. More details are available in the online application. Applications are requested by Wednesday, July 13, 2022, 11:59 PM PDT.

  • NPI director is keynote presenter at the Conference on School Meals in Bergen, Norway

    Jun 6, 2022

    The University of California Nutrition Policy Institute director, Lorrene Ritchie, is a keynote presenter at the Conference on School Meals. The conference is hosted by the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences in Bergen, Norway June 8-10, 2022. Ritchie's talk, ‘Impact of school meals on student nutrition and health: Experiences from the United States' opens the conference proceedings on June 8. Ritchie will highlight historical perspectives of the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program, the costs and benefits of the program, the role of nutrition education, and universal school meals during the COVID-19 pandemic. She will also be highlighting topics for future study.

  • NPI researchers share latest findings on CA Universal School Meals in CA Local School Wellness Policy Webinar

    Jun 3, 2022

    Beginning in school year 2022-2023, California will become the first state to implement a statewide Universal Meals Program for school children. California's Universal Meals Program is designed to build on the foundations of the federal National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP). Nutrition Policy Institute researcher Wendi Gosliner shared preliminary results of how the school nutrition community has implemented the meal programs during the 2021-22 school year and how they are thinking about this new program at a webinar hosted by the California Local School Wellness Policy on Thursday, June 2, 2022. Results were collected from a February 2022 survey of just over half of California's school food service directors. This project was funded by the California state legislative office.

  • New study and research brief describe school meal distribution during COVID-19 school closures and actionable steps for providing equitable meal access during emergencies

    May 27, 2022

    The Nutrition Policy Institute's CalFresh Healthy Living evaluation team analyzed data from a stratified, random sample of 190 CalFresh Healthy Living-eligible school districts in California to better understand equitable school meal distribution and changes in meal participation during COVID-19 school closures. Researchers found total school meals served decreased by a median of 46% between May 2019 and May 2020. While districts did a commendable job providing information and meals to families during school closures, there were gaps in communication about school meal eligibility requirements and menus. Additionally, while districts placed more school meal distribution sites in lower-income areas, the number of school meal distribution sites was not proportionate to the size of the population in those areas. The study was published in Preventive Medicine Reports. Researchers offer actionable steps and recommendations in an accompanying research brief for how programs like CalFresh Healthy Living can better support schools and provide equitable meal access during emergency school closures. The study and research brief are timely and important because emergency school closures will likely occur in the future as communities cope with floods, fires and other natural disasters. This work was conducted under contract with the California Department of Public Health with funding from the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed).

Please see additional news items in our News section

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