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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.

COVID-19 Update. The Nutrition Policy Institute is working remotely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and is still available to answer your questions and address your needs. Please contact us if you have any questions. 

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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 policy advisor presents at the Child and Adult Care Food Program Roundtable conference on the law requiring tap water lead testing in California child care centers

    Oct 20, 2021

    Nutrition Policy Institute policy advisor Christina Hecht presented virtually at the 2021 Child and Adult Care Food Program conference. Her talk on October 19 was titled “Testing: one, two and three! AB 2370 and you” on the California law–AB 2370–that requires licensed child care centers to test for lead at every tap used for drinking or cooking. Implementation of the law was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hecht's talk informed attendees on how to prepare for future implementation of AB 2370 and also provided a question and answer session for child care providers to share their experiences. Hecht leads the National Drinking Water Alliance, which is coordinated by NPI.

  • Nutrition Policy Institute welcomes Erin Esaryk

    Oct 19, 2021

    The Nutrition Policy Institute welcomed Erin Esaryk to the team on August 9, 2021 as a research data analyst. Esaryk graduated in May 2020 from UC Berkeley with a master in public health. She also works at UC San Francisco with Sheri Weiser on projects related to food insecurity and health outcomes. Esaryk will work on NPI projects related to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education, food environments, nutrition education, and physical activity.

  • Nutrition Policy Institute researchers present at American Public Health Association annual meeting on increasing fresh local produce in prisons, nutrition text messages to SNAP participants, and delayed access to healthcare during COVID-19

    Oct 19, 2021

    Nutrition Policy Institute researcher Wendi Gosliner presents virtually at the 2021 American Public Health Association 2021 Annual Meeting and Expo October 24-27. Gosliner and NPI co-authors Ron Strochlic and Marisa Tsai present a virtual talk on October 26 titled 'Increasing fresh local produce in prisons: Promising practices to improve health, foster food justice, and support local food systems'. Gosliner presents an in-person talk with NPI co-authors Celeste Felix, Strochlic and Tsai on October 27 titled ‘Texting monthly nutrition messages to all Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants in San Diego county, California: Promising pilot study results'. Gosliner is also co-author of a talk presented by Mekhala Hoskote of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health titled ‘“Hidden pandemic”: Delays in healthcare among low-income families in California during the COVID-19 pandemic' on October 22. The 2021 APHA meeting theme is 'Creating the Healthiest Nation: Strengthening Social Connectedness', and is a hybrid conference allowing attendees to participate online or in-person in Denver, Colorado.

  • Nutrition Policy Institute presentation at the NIH ‘State of the Science’ workshop on Food Insecurity, Neighborhood Food Environment, and Nutrition Health Disparities is now available online

    Oct 8, 2021

    Nutrition plays an important role in promoting health and preventing disease, but where people live or how much money they earn can affect their ability to access or afford healthy food. Understanding the role socio-economic conditions play can help inform prevention efforts. Nutrition Policy Institute director and Cooperative Extension specialist, Lorrene Ritchie, presented at a three-day virtual National Institutes of Health workshop, “Food Insecurity, Neighborhood Food Environment, and Nutrition Health Disparities: State of the Science”. Her talk, “Food Insecurity Across the Lifespan,” provided an overview of current evidence related to racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities of food insecurity over the life course. All talks are free and available on-demand for online viewing.

  • Nutrition Policy Institute’s Wendi Gosliner featured in Western Farm Press article on text messages to CalFresh participants on healthy produce

    Oct 6, 2021

    Nutrition Policy Institute senior researcher and policy advisor, Wendi Gosliner, was featured in an article in Western FarmPress about a pilot program for San Diego County CalFresh participants to receive monthly text messages about the benefits of California-grown fruits and vegetables. Gosliner worked to evaluate the pilot program in collaboration with the UC San Diego Center for Community Health and the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency. Gosliner is quoted as, “In a text, you have very few characters you're communicating with people, so we wanted to make sure we were using cutting-edge behavioral science to construct those messages to have the most impact." A majority of the program recipients who received messages from September 2020 to March 2021 responded to a survey saying they appreciated receiving the text messages. Gosliner reports, “What we see is that there's definitely a decent-sized population of people participating in CalFresh – now this is just in San Diego County but imagine the entire state – who would benefit from having this kind of information available to them, and there is at least a subset of people who really liked it."

  • UC Berkeley student named Global Food Initiative Fellow with Nutrition Policy Institute

    Sep 30, 2021

    University of California student Anna Rios has been selected as Global Food Initiative fellow for the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Nutrition Policy Institute during the 2021-22 school year. Rios is a senior in molecular and cell biology at UC Berkeley. Rios is originally from the small rural town of Williams, about two hours north of the Bay Area. In her home community, she noticed the prevalence of packaged and processed foods, along with health burdens present. Coming into college, Rios had no interest in research, but this slowly shifted as she gained more exposure to research through her involvement with Lorrene Ritchie, director of the Nutrition Policy Institute. In this upcoming year, she will work on two GFI projects which focus on improving nutrition in infants and school-aged children through nutritious school meals. The Global Food Initiative was founded in 2014 under then UC President Janet Napolitano with the goal of conquering the question of how to sustainably and nutritiously feed a world population that is expected to reach 8 billion by 2025. Fellows across the 10 UC campuses and Agriculture and Natural Resources work on projects or internships that focus on food issues. Participants receive professional development, tours of food and agriculture sites throughout California, and a $3,000 annual stipend to support their educational experience.

  • More than 1.8 million Californians are still behind on rent payments despite progress protecting California renters from eviction during the pandemic

    Despite progress on protecting California renters from eviction during the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 1.8 million Californians are still behind on rent payments. New findings from University of California researchers suggest more outreach on California's emergency rental assistance (ERA) program is needed. Wendi Gosliner, of the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Nutrition Policy Institute, partnered with researchers at UC Berkeley and the UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative to collect survey data on 502 low-income parents of young children residing in California. Survey results found that 22 percent of respondents who were renters deferred rent payments since March 2020, when the pandemic first began to trigger large-scale shutdowns and economic dislocation in the United States. Only 7 percent of survey respondents had received ERA relief payments during the time of interviews. Statewide, many low-income renters remain at a heightened risk of dislocation and potential homelessness when California's eviction moratorium expires on September 30. Survey findings are compiled in a research brief, which includes recommendations for how public and nonprofit entities in California can improve ERA uptake among low-income renters. The survey, part of the Assessing California Communities' Experiences with Safety net Supports (ACCESS), was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with supplemental funding from the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations and Tipping Point.

  • Nutrition Policy Institute partners with UC researchers to identify promising practices to support the health of California agriculture workers

    Sep 14, 2021

    Nutrition Policy Institute researcher, Ron Strochlic, received funding to partner with researchers from the University of California (UC) to identify promising practices to support the health of California agriculture workers. Strochlic, a longtime researcher of California agriculture worker health issues and former executive director of the California Institute for Rural Studies, will be conducting interviews with growers and farm labor contractors, as well as stakeholders representing different sectors–farm labor advocates, farmworker-serving nonprofits, grower organizations and health care providers–on agricultural worker health. The goal of the interviews is to identify promising practices for increasing access to and utilization of health care services among agricultural workers and their family members, as well as access to wellness services, including nutrition and physical activity. Strochlic will be working with Christy Getz, UC Berkeley Cooperative Extension Specialist in Agriculture and Food Systems, to interview stakeholders. The interviews are part of a larger project, known as the Farmworker Health Study, led by the UC Merced Community and Labor Center. Findings will be shared with the California Department of Public Health with recommendations for improving farmworker health. The two-year project, funded by UC Merced, started in March 2020. Additional project collaborators include Paul Brown, Ed Flores, and Anna Padilla of UC Merced, and Brenda Eskenazi of UC Berkeley.

  • New NPI report details methods used by California Local Health Departments for documenting SNAP-Ed–CalFresh Healthy Living–interventions

    Sep 13, 2021

    The USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-Ed) is an evidence-based program that helps low-income individuals live healthier lives through education, social marketing, and policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) changes. Known as CalFresh Healthy Living (CFHL) in California, SNAP-Ed is overseen by the California Department of Social Services and implemented by four state implementing agencies and the local implementing agencies (LIAs) that they fund. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is one of four state implementing agencies and funds 60 local health departments. Beginning in 2018, California's LIAs use the Program Evaluation and Reporting System (PEARS) to report their CFHL activities and interventions. The Nutrition Policy Institute serves as CDPH's evaluation contractor for its CFHL program; NPI's PEARS team, Carolyn Rider, Janice Kao, Evan Talmage, and Christina Becker, provide technical and evaluation assistance to CDPH and its LIAs for PEARS reporting. They authored a  new report which presents the background, definitions, and methods used by CDPH and its funded local health departments for reporting CFHL interventions implemented throughout California during Federal Fiscal Year 2020. The report, titled “Background on Local Health Department Reporting of CalFresh Healthy Living Programs in the Program Evaluation and Reporting System, FFY 2020”, also details challenges in reporting CFHL activities and gives recommendations to improve reporting. 

  • NPI’s Lorrene Ritchie quoted in The Washington Post article on increase in childhood obesity rates during the COVID-19 pandemic

    Sep 3, 2021

    Childhood obesity rates increased during the global COVID-19 pandemic according to a study published in August in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Results of the study, which included electronic medical record data of 200,000 children ages 5 to 17 in Kaiser Permanente Southern California, were featured in an August 31, 2021 article in The Washington Post. Nutrition Policy Institute director and cooperative extension specialist Lorrene Ritchie was quoted in the article, “before the coronavirus, studies showed that students tended to gain weight during the summer when away from school. They tend to gain weight at an accelerated rate, then during the school year their body mass index goes down, but not as much, so over time kids are getting more and more overweight and obese.” Ritchie also stated that “regular summer weight gain among students is attributed to missing recess, P.E. and school sports, as well as not getting exercise associated with traveling to and from school. It is also because studies show that school meals are, on average, healthier than what children bring from home. Also, kids in school have access to breakfast and lunch; at home during the summer there is frequently unfettered access to food all day long.” Ritchie was further quoted that “companies selling junk food have had more access during the pandemic to market directly to children who spent more time on screens. What this has taught us is that our food environment is way out of line with what we need. Food companies are geared to getting us to eat as many calories as possible. And we are geared toward eating when food is available.”

Please see additional news items in our News section

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