Schools offer a unique environment to increase food security and improve dietary intake among youth. A new study proposes a novel conceptual model to understand teacher's perceptions, behavior modeling, and support of student school lunch participation. A teacher outreach intervention exposed teachers to new school lunch menu items, promoted healthfulness of the school lunch program, and offered teachers educational materials to encourage student participation in the lunch program. Findings include teachers reportedly eating more with students after the intervention, and student agreement that adults at their school encourage them to eat school lunch increased. However, teacher perceptions of school meal healthfulness and taste were unchanged after the intervention. Findings call for further exploration of the determinants of teacher values around school meals to better understand this potential lever for increasing school lunch participation. The study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health was conducted by researchers Hannah Thompson and Lorrene Ritchie from the Nutrition Policy Institute, Stephanie Machado and Kristine Madsen from the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health, Renata Cauchon- Robles from San Francisco Unified School District, and Marisa Neelon from the UC Cooperative Extension. The study was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture: Technology and Design Innovation to Support 21st Century Nutrition (Grant ID: 2015−68001−23236).
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Researchers target teacher perceptions of school meals to increase student school meal participation
NPI’s Mónica Zuercher shares expertise of the Universal School Meals Program in the Los Angeles Times
“How do we expect children to learn at school if they are hungry?” says Mónica Zuercher, of the Nutrition Policy Institute. The Los Angeles Times featured Zuercher, a nutritional epidemiologist, in a story about the permanent implementation of the Universal School Meals Program in California starting in the 2022-2023 school year. Zuercher identified the school cafeteria as a place to increase nutritional security. “Nutritional standards are in place at the national level, establishing the nutritional qualities that school meals need to have. So, it is important to highlight that not only two free meals are being offered in schools, but it's also two healthy meals,” she says. The Universal School Meal Program, initially a federal COVID-19 emergency measure, is now being permanently implemented in California and several other states. Zuercher and other researchers at the Nutrition Policy Institute will continue to evaluate the universal school meals program to inform and improve implementation. “It is a very exciting study because it examines multiple stages of universal school meals, from it's beginnings as a measure generated by COVID-19, to the challenge that it presents schools to have a large increase in the number of students participating in the program,” explained Zuercher. Preliminary findings from this research include reports from food service directors who say providing meals to all students free of charge has led to an increase in student participation, reductions in school meal debt and stigma related to meal participation. The original Los Angeles Times article “Big logistical challenge involves free food in schools. How to solve it?” was published on September 15, 2022 in Spanish. Follow updates related to this project on NPI's School Meals for All webpage.
California school foodservice professionals report benefits and challenges of providing school meals to all students free of charge during the COVID-19 pandemic
California school food service professionals report that federal funding of universal school meals (USM) for two years during the COVID-19 pandemic increased access to healthy foods by K-12 students. Professionals cited increased student meal participation, fewer unpaid meal charges, and reduced student stigma as a result of providing meals free of charge to all students. A number of challenges were also experienced by many school districts, namely supply chain disruptions and staffing shortages related to the pandemic. Other challenges were inadequate food service equipment, and issues with food and packaging waste. Fortunately, the state has recently expanded resources to overcome such challenges. The study, funded by California General Fund SB 170, was conducted by Monica Zuercher, Christina Hecht, Ken Hecht, Lorrene Ritchie, and Wendi Gosliner of the Nutrition Policy Institute, and Juliana Cohen of the Center for Health Inclusion, Research, and Practice & Department of Public Health and Nutrition and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Department of Nutrition. The online survey was completed by 581 California food service professionals in early 2022. The complete publication is available online in the Nutrients journal.
NPI researchers present at Annual CACFP Conference on drinking water and benefits and barriers child care providers experience in the Child and Adult Care Food Program
The federal Child and Adult Care Food Program provides reimbursements for nutritious meals and snacks served to children enrolled for care at participating child care centers and family child care homes. The 31st Annual CACFP Conference in Sacramento, California Oct. 17-19, 2022 will bring together over 500 participants from across the nation to provide training and support to members of the CACFP community. Nutrition Policy Institute researchers present the latest CACFP drinking water recommendations to encourage healthy hydration and new findings on barriers and facilitators to CACFP participation from a qualitative study of California-based independent child care centers and their sponsors. Christina Hecht will co-present an in-person session on Oct. 17, 2:30-3:45 p.m. titled “CACFP: Drinking Water's Friend” with Amanda Dyes, Deborah Gillison-Wilson, and Shelby Beverly from Georgia Nutritional Services, Inc. Danielle Lee will co-present an in-person session on Oct. 19, 10:45-12:00 noon titled “State Differences in CACFP Participation of Center-Based Programs” with Melissa McCann from the University of Connecticut, Rudd Center for Food Policy & Health.
Qualitative study reports increased fruit and vegetable consumption after a COVID-related increase to WIC Cash Value Benefit
A recent study on COVID-related changes to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Cash Value Benefit (CVB) for participants to purchase fruits and vegetables demonstrates a positive relationship between CVB amounts and nutritional security. The American Rescue Plan Act responded to economic impacts of the COVID-19 public health emergency by implementing a temporary increase to CVB. Researchers evaluated the impact of the additional benefits through telephone interviews with 30 Southern California WIC participants. Qualitative data from participant interviews reflected the following themes: ease of utilizing WIC benefits, satisfaction with CVB increase, and the CVB increase enabling purchase of greater amounts and variety of fruits and vegetables. Findings suggest that increasing the WIC CVB enables purchase of more fruits and vegetables and less reliance on processed foods. The study was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. It was conducted by researchers Catherine Martinez, Christopher Anderson and Shannon Whaley from Public Health Foundation Enterprises (PHFE)-WIC, and Lorrene Ritchie, Danielle Lee and Marisa Tsai from the Nutrition Policy Institute, University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. It was funded by David and Lucile Packard Foundation, grant number 2020-70267 and Healthy Eating Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Round 12, grant number 77239.
Nutrition Policy Institute to share research findings at the 150th American Public Health Association Annual Meeting
The American Public Health Association holds an Annual Meeting & Expo for public health professionals to engage, collaborate, and network with the overarching goal of advancing the nation's health. This year's meeting in Boston, November 6-9, 2022 will celebrate 150 Years of Creating the Healthiest Nation: Leading the Path Toward Equity. Nutrition Policy Institute researchers will share findings that bring nutrition equity to the forefront of federal programs, school nutrition, community health, health literacy, and the food retail environment. A list of the poster presentations and live oral presentations is found below.
Reductions in public health obesity prevention interventions due to COVID-19 disproportionately affect neighborhoods with pre-existing health inequities
Authors: Erin E Esaryk, Carolyn D Rider, Gail Woodward-Lopez
Session 8; Tuesday, November 8, 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.; poster presentation
A novel approach to measuring potential for health equity impact in community health interventions
Authors: Janice Kao, Gail Woodward-Lopez, Christina Becker, Carolyn Rider, Erin Esaryk, Evan Talmage
Session 7; Tuesday, November 8, 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.; poster presentation
Retail food environment:
What can we learn from California's investment in the Healthy Stores Refrigeration Grant Program?
Authors: Carolyn Chelius, Caroline Long, Taylor Baisey, Wendi Gosliner
Wednesday, November 9, 8:30 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.; oral presentation
Providing School Meals to All Students Free of Cost: Challenges and Benefits Reported by School District Foodservice Professionals to Inform California's Policy Implementation
Authors: Wendi Gosliner, Monica Zuercher, Juliana Cohen, Christina Hecht, Michele Polacsek, Kenneth Hecht, Lindsey Turner, Marlene Schwartz, Anisha Patel, Lorrene Ritchie
Monday, November 7, 4:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.; oral presentation
Impact of a teacher intervention to encourage students to eat school lunch
Authors: Hannah Thompson, Stephanie Machado, Kristine Madsen, Renata Cauchon-Robles, Marisa Neelon, Lorrene Ritchie
Monday, November 7, 4:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.; oral presentation
Evaluation identifies the most promising combinations of school-based Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-Ed) interventions for improving student fitness
Authors: Sridharshi Hewawitharana, Gail Woodward-Lopez, Punam Ohri-Vachaspati, Francesco Acciai, Hannah R. Thompson, Wendi Gosliner
Monday, November 7, 4:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.; oral presentation
Assessing changes associated with expanding the WIC Cash-Value Benefit for the purchase of fruits and vegetables among children age 1 to 5 years: a longitudinal study
Authors: Marisa Tsai, Christopher Anderson, Catherine Martinez, Martha Meza, Lauren Au, Lorrene Ritchie, Shannon Whaley
Tuesday, November 8, 2:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.; oral presentation
Impact of an arts-based public health literacy program delivered online to high school students during the COVID-19 pandemic
Authors: Hannah Thompson, Jackie Mendelson, Maya Zamek, Gabriel Cortez, Dean Schillinger
Wednesday, November 9, 12:30 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.; oral presentation
- CalFresh Healthy Living
- Caroline Long
- Carolyn Chelius
- Carolyn Rider
- Christina Becker
- Christina Hecht
- Erin Esaryk
- Evan Talmage
- Gail Woodward-Lopez
- Hannah Thompson
- Janice Kao
- Ken Hecht
- Lorrene Ritchie
- Marisa Tsai
- Monica Zuercher
- physical activity
- retail food environments
- school meals
- Sridharshi Hewawitharana
- Wendi Gosliner
NPI presents at Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2022 Food & Nutrition Conference on conducting research to inform policy
Nutrition Policy Institute director Lorrene Ritchie will present at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2022 Food & Nutrition Conference and Expo. The conference will be held in Orlando, Florida, October 8-11. Ritchie will be co-presenting a session on October 9, 1:30-3:00 p.m. Eastern Time titled “Multiplying Your Impact: Conducting Research to Inform Policy” with co-presenters Sheila Fleischhacker from Georgetown University Law Center and Alison Steiber from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The session will be moderated by Mary Lesser from the University of California, Berkeley and UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, Oakland.
NPI researchers present at National WIC Association 2022 Nutrition Education and Breastfeeding Conference
Nutrition Policy Institute researchers will present at the National WIC Association 2022 Nutrition Education & Breastfeeding Conference in Orlando, Florida, September 6-9, 2022. Lorrene Ritchie will co-present a session titled “Now we are FIVE! Findings through age five from the WIC Infant and Toddler Feeding Practices Study-2 (WIC ITFPS-2)” on September 8 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Co-presenters are Amanda Reat from the USDA Food and Nutrition Services, and Christina Borger from Westat. Eastern Time. Marisa Tsai will present on findings from a California study at a session titled “Understanding Perceptions and Utilization of the WIC Cash Value Benefit: Perspectives from Four States” on September 8 from 2:00-3:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Co-presenters from other states include Emily Duffy from the University of North Carolina, McKenna Halverson from the University of Delaware, and Cristina Gago from Harvard University. A detailed agenda of the conference is available online.
Katherine Lanca joined the Nutrition Policy Institute on Aug. 30, 2022 as a 2022-23 University of California Global Food Initiative student fellow. Katherine is a UC Berkeley School of Public Health master's student in the Public Health Nutrition program. She will be extending her impact beyond the classroom through written, visual, and online communications about nutrition policy, food security, federal food programs, and food policy issues. The UC GFI addresses one of the critical issues of our time: how to sustainably and nutritiously feed a world population expected to reach eight billion by 2025. Students play an important role in the UC GFI and efforts to increase food security, health and sustainability. The UC GFI Student Fellowship program funds student-generated research, related projects or internships that focus on food issues.
Two Assistant Project Scientist positions are available at the Nutrition Policy Institute, University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The positions make significant and creative contributions to NPI's collaborative research in multiple settings including communities, schools, and childcare facilities. These projects involve the assessment of the food environment and individuals' attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors related to the improvement of food policies, food systems, prevention of chronic diseases and optimization of health and wellbeing. The position is a one-year renewable term appointment with a merit cycle every two years. The positions will be extended based on the continued need for the positions, performance and availability of funding. More information about the positions and how to apply is available online. To assure full consideration, application packets must be received by September 26, 2022. The University of California is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.