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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.


  • NPI researchers awarded Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Healthy Eating Research program funding to evaluate COVID-19 and socioeconomic recovery efforts

    Aug 2, 2022

    Nutrition Policy Institute researchers were awarded three separate 18-month research grants up to $250,000 as part of the Healthy Eating Research 2021 special solicitation on COVID-19 and Socioeconomic Recovery Efforts. Lorrene Ritchie, in collaboration with co-principal investigator Susana Matias from UC Berkeley and the CACFP Roundtable, received a grant for a project titled, “Child and Adult Care Food Program: Impacts of COVID-19 Differences in Reimbursement Rates on Family Childcare Home Providers, Children, and Families”. Wendi Gosliner is serving as co-PI on a project with Juliana Cohen from Merrimack College entitled “Evaluation of Universal Free School Meals,”, and is collaborating with Lia Fernald from UC Berkeley on another project entitled “Longitudinal Study of Low-Income Families with Young Children: Assessing California Communities' Experiences with Safety Net Supports Survey (ACCESS)”. Healthy Eating Research is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Only 9 grants were awarded this cycle.

  • NPI researchers present on drinking water and SNAP-Ed at the annual Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior conference

    Jul 27, 2022

    Nutrition Policy Institute researchers Christina Hecht and Janice Kao will take part in the 2022 Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior conference on the intersection of nutrition education and behavior and the digital world. Hecht is a co-author of the abstract “Associations of Perceptions of Water Safety and Tap Water Taste with Beverage Intake Among U.S. Adults,” which Sohyun Park, the lead investigator, will present as a poster. Kao will present a poster from the NPI CalFresh Healthy Living evaluation unit research team—Carolyn Rider, Christina Becker, Evan Talmage, Kaela Plank, Amanda Linares, and Kao—in person from 12:15 to 2:00 EDT on July 31. The poster is titled, “Where Do We Go from Here? California Local Health Departments Navigate School-based SNAP-Ed During COVID-19.” The conference will be held in person, in Atlanta, Georgia, and virtually, from July 29 to July 31, 2022.

  • New study describes the connection between perceived tap water security in schools and water consumption by source

    Jul 27, 2022

    In a new cross-sectional study from the Academic Pediatrics journal, researchers investigated the impact of negative water security experiences on the preferred water sources and water intake of San Francisco Bay Area students at low-income public schools. A water security experience was considered negative if a student believed the water to be unsafe, contaminated, or taste bad. Researchers found that students who reported having some or multiple negative water security experiences at school—74.5% of the sample—were more likely to drink from sinks and tap water dispensers, and less likely to drink from water fountains than those with no negative experiences. Students with negative experiences also drank less water overall, something that can lead to higher consumption of sweetened beverages and associated health issues. The study suggests that interventions that introduce tap water safety education and increase access to preferred water sources may be useful in raising water intake in schools. The team was led by Anisha Patel, Jeffery Ezennia, and Lauren Blacker from Stanford University, Laura Schmidt and Charles McCulloch from UC San Francisco, and Lorrene Ritchie from the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Nutrition Policy Institute. The study was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute award R01HL129288 and supplement 3R01HL129288-05S1.

  • NPI welcomes new data analyst Richard Pulvera to the CalFresh Healthy Living evaluation team

    Jul 19, 2022

    The Nutrition Policy Institute welcomed Richard Pulvera to the team on July 6, 2022. Richard is an NPI research data analyst who primarily works on evaluation and reporting projects for CalFresh Healthy Living in partnership with the California Department of Public Health. Richard completed his MPH in Epidemiology & Biostatistics at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health in 2022. He also earned his Bachelor's degrees in Public Health and Molecular & Cell Biology at UC Berkeley in 2019. His previous research experiences broadly focused on the impact of safety net and economic support programs, youth nutrition programs, and policies for chronic disease prevention. Richard also has previous experience in higher education outreach and retention, focusing on students from marginalized backgrounds.

  • New study shows longer participation in WIC is associated with higher diet quality and improved food security in children

    Jul 18, 2022

    The federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides supplemental healthy foods, health care and social service referrals, breastfeeding support, and nutrition education for pregnant and postpartum women and children up to age five in families with low income. A new study in The Journal of Nutrition suggests that longer participation in the WIC program by children is associated with higher diet quality, decreased household food insecurity, and, unexpectedly, increased odds of obesity. Researchers used longitudinal data collected from a national cohort of over 800 children enrolled in WIC in 2013. These results show the importance of improving child retention on the WIC program to better support their nutrition security. The study was conducted by Christopher Anderson, Catherine Martinez, and Shannon Whaley of Public Health Foundation Enterprises WIC, Lorrene Ritchie of the Nutrition Policy Institute at the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Courtney Paolicelli and Amanda Reat of the US Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Services, and Christine Borger of Westat. The study was funded through contract number AG-3198-K-15-0050 with the USDA. These findings and conclusions are those of the authors and should not be construed to represent official USDA or US Government determination or policy.

  • NPI welcomes summer student interns to enhance research

    Jul 15, 2022

    This summer, the Nutrition Policy Institute has welcomed eight student interns who are supporting ongoing research and communications. The group is bringing new perspectives to NPI work, strengthening connections with the academic and local communities, and bolstering research. Laura Jacobs from the Tufts University Master of Public Health (MPH) program and Lisa Hu from the University of California, Berkeley are working with Kaela Plank and Janice Kao, respectively, to evaluate the CalFresh Healthy Living (CFHL) program with the California Department of Public Health, working to better understand CFHL efforts and improve program reach and implementation in under-resourced communities. Samantha Sam-Chen, an MPH student at the University of California, Berkeley, and Leslie Rivas, an undergraduate student at California State University, Stanislaus, are working with Wendi Gosliner to survey and evaluate the California Nutrition Incentive Program (CNIP) and the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program COVID Relief and Response (GusCRR) Nutrition Incentive Projects, which provide CalFresh shoppers with matching funds for the purchase of California-grown fruits, vegetables and other specialty crops. In addition, Jude Al-Abosy, an undergraduate student at Tufts University, is assisting Gosliner with a California Department of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant that seeks to promote California-grown fruits and vegetables in California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation prisons. Fanta Jimissa is a Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) intern and undergraduate student at UC Berkeley working with Nicole Vital, Suzanne Rauzon, and Lorrene Ritchie to collect data and create educational infographics to communicate findings of a pilot study that examines how milk type influences toddler growth and development. Xiaoyun (Alice) Zheng, Tufts MPH, is working with Ritchie and Danielle Lee on secondary data analysis of a multi-state Women, Infants, and Children survey conducted in the spring and fall of 2021 as part of her capstone project. Cate Seel, a high school student at the College Preparatory School in Oakland, is working with Lee to support NPI's communications and social media efforts. The NPI team is grateful for the opportunity to mentor and work alongside future leaders in public health nutrition research, evaluation, and communications.

  • New study describes a flexible recruitment strategy for schools that are socioeconomically comparable to SNAP-Ed schools

    Jul 11, 2022

    Researchers from the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Nutrition Policy Institute recruited 36 elementary schools from across California to serve as comparison schools to evaluate the impact of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) programming at school sites. School-based SNAP-Ed initiatives include direct nutrition and physical activity education, indirect education, such as materials sent home to families, and policy, systems, and environmental change strategies that promote healthy eating to advance food and nutrition security, reduce diet-related chronic disease, and promote equity. The research team developed and implemented a flexible recruitment strategy that allowed for different routes to administrative and district approval of socioeconomically similar comparison schools. In addition, they learned to effectively use a combination of online and in-person communication, build relationships with various administrators, and highlight the tangible benefits of participation when recruiting. Led by Amanda Linares, Phoebe Harpainter, Kaela Plank, and Gail Woodward-Lopez, the study was published in the Journal of Extension. The study is funded by USDA's SNAP-Ed and is supported by the California Department of Public Health Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch.

  • 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.

Please see additional news items in our News section

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