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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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  • NPI receives grant to evaluate the impact of the California Fruit and Vegetable pilot on farmers markets and CalFresh shoppers

    Nov 23, 2022

    The California Fruit and Vegetable EBT Pilot Project aims to develop and refine a scalable model for increasing the purchase and consumption of California-grown fresh fruits and vegetables by delivering supplemental benefits to CalFresh recipients in a way that can be easily adopted by USDA Food and Nutrition Service authorized retailers in the future. The California Department of Social Services EBT, in partnership with CalFresh, Office of Systems Integration, and California Department of Food & Agriculture awarded three grants to non-profit organizations or government agencies to meet this goal. Nutrition Policy Institute's Wendi Gosliner received $90,313 as part of a larger $537,690 grant from CDSS to collaborate with the Ecology Center to evaluate and understand the experiences and impacts of the pilot project on farmers' market managers, vendors, and CalFresh shoppers. The Ecology Center of Berkeley coordinates the Market Match consortium and will pilot the new program in Los Angeles, San Bernadino, Alameda, Napa and Sacramento counties. The two-year project began on October 1, 2022. The NPI project team includes Carolyn Chelius and Sridharshi Hewawitharana. Gosliner has conducted evaluations of CDFA's Nutrition Incentive Program for the past five years.

  • Research brief on study that identified limited implementation of California‚Äôs Healthy Default Beverage law

    Nov 4, 2022

    A new research brief developed by the Nutrition Policy Institute describes a study that identified limited implementation of California's Healthy Default Beverage Law (SB 1192) for orders made online. The law requires restaurants selling children's meals that include a beverage to make the default beverage water, sparkling water, flavored water with no added natural or artificial sweeteners, or unflavored milk or non-dairy milk alternative. Researchers randomly sampled 226 fast food restaurants located in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-Ed) eligible census tracts in California and “ordered” 631 kids' meals from restaurant websites and three popular online ordering platforms. Researchers recorded beverage offerings as well as additional charges (“upcharges”) for beverages. Findings indicate that only 6% of orders reflected optimal implementation of the Healthy-by-Default Beverage law. Further, 41% of orders that offered water had an upcharge ($0.51 on average) and 11% of orders that offered unflavored milk had an up charge ($0.38 on average). No observations had upcharges for soda. The findings indicate that, in order to support California's SNAP-Ed goal for reducing sugar sweetened beverage intake, specific language, monitoring, and future legislation may be necessary to ensure the law is applied to online-ordering and in-restaurant self-service kiosks. The study and research brief were authored by NPI's Cal Fresh Healthy Living Evaluation Unit, including Hannah Thompson, Ron Strochlic, Sonali Singh, Kaela Plank, Anna Martin, and Gail Woodward-Lopez.

  • NPI job opening: Research Data Analyst

    Nov 3, 2022

    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. More information and instructions on how to apply are available online. To assure full consideration, applications must be received by December 1, 2022. The University of California is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

  • Wendi Gosliner honored by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Susie Nanney Culture of Health Champion Award

    Nov 1, 2022

    Nutrition Policy Institute researcher Wendi Gosliner received the Susie Nanney Culture of Health Champion Award in recognition of her work on improving nutrition for marginalized populations and promoting a culture of health in the design and implementation of food assistance programs. She was honored with the award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellows Program—of which Wendi is a 2013-2014 alumna—which was presented to her at the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine building in Washington, DC, on Oct. 14, 2022 during their annual meeting. Wendi is the principal investigator or co-principal investigator of several collaborative research projects that exemplify her award, including but not limited to: a California Department of Agriculture-funded project to increase access to and consumption of California-grown specialty crops in the California corrections system, a California state-funded evaluation of California's universal school meals program, and two RWJF-funded projects to explore perceptions and take up of the earned-income tax credit and other safety net supports among young California families with low-income.

  • New study identifies benefits of and challenges to participation in the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program by independent child care centers and their sponsors

    Oct 31, 2022

    The federal Child and Adult Care Food Program provides reimbursements for nutritious meals and snacks for over 4.2 million children in the US at participating child care sites. Nutrition Policy Institute researchers collaborated with the CACFP Roundtable to identify benefits of and barriers to participating in the CACFP by independent child care centers and their sponsors. Nearly one-in-three child care centers participating in CACFP across the nation are considered independent centers, meaning they are independently owned and operated, not owned by a corporation and operate at a single physical site. Through focus groups and interviews conducted with 16 independent centers and 5 sponsors of independent centers in California, December 2021 through March 2022, researchers identified several benefits of and barriers to CACFP participation as well several facilitators to support participation. The study also highlighted the important role sponsors play in supporting independent centers to participate in the CACFP. The participating centers and sponsors were geographically diverse, located across all California Department of Social Services-established CACFP administrative regions, from both rural and non-rural settings. Length of CACFP-participation ranged from one to 10 or more years, and one tribal and one government/military independent center also participated in the study. Findings were published in an article in the journal Nutrients as well as a research brief. The study was conducted by Lorrene Ritchie, Danielle Lee, and Christina Hecht from NPI, in collaboration with Elyse Homel Vitale and Samantha Marshall from the CACFP Roundtable, and Lindsay Beck from the University of California, San Francisco, Nutrition & Food Services. The study was funded by the California Department of Social Services.

  • New study assesses the impact of socioeconomic stressors on health outcomes among caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic

    Oct 28, 2022

    The COVID-19 pandemic caused sudden economic, childcare, and housing disruptions to families with low incomes and young children, resulting in poor health outcomes such as food insecurity and depressive symptoms. These findings are shared in a new study that interviewed 464 racially diverse female caregivers with low income in California. Data collected as part of the Assessing California Communities' Experiences with Safety Net Supports Survey (ACCESS) from August 2020 to May 2021 showed that most caregivers reported disruptions to childcare and employment, and fewer reported housing disruptions. The women experiencing childcare and housing disruptions had significantly higher depressive symptoms, lower self-rated health and greater food insecurity than those not experiencing the disruptions. Experiencing employment disruptions was not associated with the health outcomes assessed. The research highlights structural deficits of policies and other supports for those facing childcare and housing disruptions during the pandemic, and suggests avenues to enhance the health of families with young children. The study published in the BMC Public Health Journal was conducted by Erika M. Brown, Rita Hamad, and Kaitlyn E. Jackson from the University of California San Francisco, Lia C.H. Fernald and Mekhala Hoskote with the University of California Berkeley, and Wendi Gosliner with the Nutrition Policy Institute. This project was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Tipping Point, University of California (R00RG2805), University of California Office of the President, and Berkeley Population Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

  • Lorrene Ritchie quoted in News Nation article on research to support the increased Cash Value Benefit for WIC participants to spend on fruits and vegetables

    Oct 27, 2022

    Lorrene Ritchie, Nutrition Policy Institute director and cooperative extension specialist, was quoted in an Oct. 17, 2022 News Nation article, “WIC extension led to fewer hungry kids; will it continue?”. The article speaks to the impact of inflation and supply chain issues on families and their ability to afford groceries. Done in collaboration with Dr. Shannon Whaley and her team at Public Health Foundation Enterprises-WIC, NPI research involving participants of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) was highlighted in the article. Her work to understand how the recent federal increase in money WIC participants receive to spend on fruits and vegetables, known as the Cash Value Benefit, was featured. Ritchie was quoted, “going up by just $15 a month per child may not sound like much, but for many families, it adds up, especially if there are multiple young children in the program.” The article also includes quotes from several WIC families in her study who benefited from the increase in money from WIC to spend on fruits and vegetables.

  • NPI research informing the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health highlighted in Morning Ag Clips

    Oct 27, 2022

    Nutrition Policy Institute and affiliated researchers were featured in a Morning Ag Clips article on Oct. 20, 222, “Nutrition Policy Institute work underpins historic White House conference”. The article introduced the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, which took place on Sept. 28, the first time since it was originally hosted 50 years ago. During the conference, the Biden administration announced a national strategy “to end hunger in America and increase healthy eating and physical activity by 2030 so fewer Americans experience diet-related diseases.” NPI director and Cooperative Extension specialist Lorrene Ritchie was quoted in the article: “Science is the work of many – and no one study answers all the questions – but we have a tremendous body of work that has contributed to this conference.” The article also highlighted NPI's recommendations to conference organizers on encouraging drinking water over sugar sweetened beverages, quoting NPI's senior policy advisor Christina Hecht, “NPI's recommendations were built on lots of work by many water researchers and advocates over the years.” The article also quoted NPI affiliated research Suzanna Martinez at the University of California, San Francisco about her collaborative work with NPI on alleviating food insecurity for college students. “The work that we're doing here in California tends to set the stage for what happens in other states.”

  • NPI welcomes policy analyst Kassandra Bacon

    Oct 20, 2022

    Kassandra Bacon joined the Nutrition Policy Institute staff as a project policy analyst on October 12, 2022. Kassandra attended the UC Berkeley School of Public Health where she earned her MPH with a concentration in Public Health Nutrition and Graduate Certificate in Food Systems. During her academic journey, she contributed to several research projects pertaining to sustainable food systems, program evaluation, and improvement to public nutrition policy. Additionally, her experience includes program coordination and evaluation, data analysis, and development of communication materials to advance equity-based public health solutions. Kassandra brings her knowledge and experience to the NPI, where she will continue to support public health nutrition through policy and program evaluation. She will work on projects related to nutrition and increasing consumption of drinking water and in childcare and universal school meals.

  • School drinking water lead testing programs present opportunities for policy improvement

    Oct 14, 2022

    A new study from the Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the University of California's Nutrition Policy Institute found that in 2016-2018, many students in the US attended public schools that did not have a drinking water lead-testing program in place. Of the seven states in this study, only one was found to require schools to test for lead, though all seven states included some level of guidance on what to do when lead concentrations are too high. Drinking water is important for proper hydration and oral health and can serve as a substitute for sugary drinks. Unsafe drinking water can lead to a variety of negative impacts on health. Moreover, if students and families are not assured that water has been tested and found safe, they may avoid drinking it. Improving federal guidance, educating school staff, and increasing technical and financial support for more widespread testing programs can reduce students' lead exposure. The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health. Researchers include Angie Cradock, Jessica Barrett, Chasmine Flax, and Mary Kathryn Poole from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Laura Vollmer from the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Christina Hecht with the Nutrition Policy Institute. The research was supported by Healthy Eating Research (grant 280-0799), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U48DP006376), and a training grant in nutrition from the National Institutes of Health (DK 007703–22).

Please see additional news items in our News section