Nutrition, Family and Consumer Sciences
University of California
Nutrition, Family and Consumer Sciences

Posts Tagged: Nutrition Policy Institute

California heroes continue to provide nutritious food to students

Now more than ever, California is full of heroes:  front-line workers in our hospitals, farm fields and essential businesses. And even though schools are closed, they are full of heroes, too: teachers implementing distance learning and kitchen workers who have stepped up to the heroic task of providing meals for children in their communities, despite the challenges that have come with the COVID-19 pandemic.

School nutrition professionals continue to provide nutritious food that meets dietary standards, the kitchens provide employment, and the hungry students provide a multi-million dollar market for California's agricultural products.

North Monterey County Unified School District weekly meal kit distribution has allowed them to safely provide nutritious meals to their students and the youth in their community during the school closures.

Researchers at UC Agriculture and Natural Resources's Nutrition Policy Institute received an email earlier this spring with a subject line that simply said, “HELP!!!” Local community groups had learned that some Central Valley school districts would not be providing meals over spring break. Even though that might not be cause for alarm some years, this year it would hurt. In the eight-week period between March 14 and May 14, 2020, the California Employment Development Department processed 4.7 million unemployment benefit claims – nearly seven times more claims than over a two-month period at the height of the 2008 recession. EDD estimates that California unemployment reached nearly 25% by mid-May. 

That is why school meals are more important than ever. 

On receiving the request for HELP!!!, the Nutrition Policy Institute teamed with a Stanford pediatrician to distill critical information from USDA and the California Department of Education. Connecting with child nutrition professionals throughout the state, they gleaned tips and best practices, and added COVID-19-specific resources from the Community of Practice convened by LunchAssist and the Center for Ecoliteracy. The team produced informational flyers targeted to California school district officials and food service directors:

The resources provide explanations and resources for operating school meal programs during non-instructional periods through either the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) or the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).

There is no time to lose. Click here to make sure your local school district's food services division is taking advantage of the many strategies that can support children's nutrition this summer.

Food sacks prepared for drive-by pick up by families in the North Monterey County Unified School District.
Posted on Monday, June 8, 2020 at 3:54 PM
Focus Area Tags: Food

'Healthy Beverages in Early Care and Education' online class for California child care providers

The University of California is providing a free online course, Healthy Beverages in Early Care & Education, in English and Spanish for child care providers in California. The 30-minute on-demand class is a friendly way to learn about the latest recommendations for healthy beverages for children and help child care providers meet the California Healthy Beverages in Child Care Act (AB 2084) requirements.

The online training has four main messages for child care providers: 

  • Milk - whenever milk is served, serve only lowfat (1%) milk or nonfat milk to children two years of age or older.
  • Juice - limit juice to not more than one serving per day of 100% juice.
  • Sweetened Beverages - serve no beverages with added sweeteners, either natural or artificial. Beverages with added sweeteners does not include infant formula or complete balanced nutritional products designed for children.
  • Drinking Water - make clean and safe drinking water readily available and accessible for consumption throughout the day.

The training includes videos, short quizzes and activities, and covers topics such as milk, types of fruit juice, drinking water and reading a nutrition label. A professional development certificate will be provided upon completion of the class.

To sign up for the class, visit http://bit.ly/NPIccbevE for English and http://bit.ly/NPIccbevS for Spanish and create an account. Providers outside of California may have similar beverage requirements. And all young children, regardless of licensing or Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) requirements, can benefit from consuming healthy beverages. The course is free for California providers and available for child care providers outside of California for a $15 fee.

This class was developed by the UCSF School of Nursing, California Childcare Health Program in partnership with the University of California Nutrition Policy Institute and Cooperative Extension, with support from a grant by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Posted on Friday, February 7, 2020 at 12:05 PM
Focus Area Tags: Food Health

Removing sodas for sale at UCSF helps cut sugar consumption and improve health

A study of the first University of California campus (UC San Francisco) to ban the sale of soda on campus has shown that employees reduced their consumption by nearly 50 percent. UCSF staff who took part in the study also reduced their waist measurements and weight.

“This was not a ban on the consumption of sugared beverages,” emphasized co-lead author Laura Schmidt, PhD, MSW, MPH, UCSF professor in the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies. “This was a ban on sales on sugary beverages in vending machines, break rooms and cafeterias...People could still bring them from home or buy them off campus.”

The study was published Oct. 28, 2019, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Internal Medicine.

Fruit-infused water is a refreshing substitute for sugary soda.

California Assembly Member Richard Bloom (D–Santa Monica) noted the importance of workplace and governmental restrictions on soda sales while communities are prohibited from establishing local soda taxes for the next 12 years. In June 2018, the beverage industry strong-armed the California Legislature and Governor into enacting a “preemption” law that prohibits communities from passing local soda taxes. 

“Workplace restrictions enable communities to take charge of their own health as we build momentum to pass AB 138, my bill that establishes a statewide soda tax that will fund prevention efforts. The bill will reduce soda consumption and generate positive health outcomes in impacted communities, where most needed, just like the UCSF effort,” Bloom said.

Lorrene Ritchie, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and director of the UC Nutrition Policy Institute, which conducts nutrition research to strengthen public policy, commented: “I am so impressed with both UCSF's sales ban and this very well-done study. Sodas are such a huge contributor to our obesity crisis that it is heartening to recognize a solution that any employer can adopt to help people improve their lives.”

Speaking of the UCSF study, lead author Elissa Epel, PhD, UCSF professor of psychiatry and director of the UCSF Aging, Metabolism, and Emotions Center, said: “This shows us that simply ending sales of sugary drinks in the workplace can have a meaningful effect on improving health in less than one year. There is a well-known pathway from soda to disease. High sugar intake leads to abdominal fat and insulin resistance, which are known risk factors for diabetes, heart disease, cancer and even dementia. Recent studies have also linked sugar intake to early mortality.” 

Posted on Monday, October 28, 2019 at 2:42 PM
Focus Area Tags: Food Health

Food insecurity and childhood obesity: Is there a connection?

A well-nourished population requires that all members of society have access to sufficient amounts of nutritious food. Unfortunately, food insecurity continues to be a staggering problem throughout the world with negative consequences in terms of health and well-being. 

In the United States, millions of households, an estimated 1 in 8 Americans, lack access to enough food. Children growing up in food insecure households face many challenges, such as behavioral problems, lower academic achievement, disrupted social interactions and poor health. The prevailing belief is that children living in a food insecure environment are at greater risk of undernutrition, not obesity. Although this may be true in some cases, food insecurity and childhood obesity also coexist. 

Children from food-insecure households were more likely to be overweight or obese and less frequently ate breakfast or dinner with family. (Photo: Gtorres8944stash)

Because childhood food insecurity may increase obesity risk later in life, it is important to better understand the relationship between food insecurity and children's obesity, and how it varies by demographic characteristics in the United States.

recent study published in the September 2019 issue of The Journal of Nutrition assessed the relationship between household food insecurity and child adiposity-related outcomes. This included variables such as body mass index, waist circumference and diet outcomes. The study, conducted by Lauren Au, a researcher at UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Nutrition Policy Institute, and colleagues examined associations by age, sex, and race/ethnicity. Data collected in 2013-2015 from 5,138 U.S. schoolchildren ages 4-15 years old from 130 communities in the cross-sectional Healthy Communities Study were analyzed.

Household food insecurity was self-reported using a two-item screening instrument and dietary intake was assessed using a food frequency questionnaire. Information on dietary behaviors, physical activity and demographics was  collected. To assess adiposity, children's weight, height and waist circumference were measured.

Study results support an association between food-insecure households and measures of adiposity. Children from food-insecure households had high body mass index, waist circumference, greater odds of being classified as overweight or obese, consumed more sugar from sugar-sweetened beverages, and less frequently ate breakfast and dinner with family compared to children from food-secure households. When examined by age groups, significant relationships were observed only for older children, however, results did not differ according to sex or race/ethnicity.

These results suggest that household food insecurity is associated with higher child adiposity-related outcomes and several nutrition behaviors, particularly among older children. Clearly, further research is needed to better understand the complexities of food insecurity, childhood obesity, and future health outcomes.

Read the full open access article.

This research was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Posted on Tuesday, September 10, 2019 at 1:21 PM
  • Author: Kathy Beerman, Ph.D., School of Biological Sciences, Washington State University
Focus Area Tags: Family Food

Children are getting healthier, but the obesity crisis is not over

Real progress has been made in tackling the epidemic of childhood obesity since the first California Childhood Obesity Conference was held 20 years ago, but there is more work to be done.

“Collectively, we have come so far,” UC Nutrition Policy Institute Director Lorrene Ritchie told an audience of 1,025 public health, nutrition education, research, and other professionals at the event in Anaheim in July 2019. NPI was one of six conference hosts.

NPI director Lorrene Ritchie, center, talks with colleagues at the Nutrition Policy Institute exhibit at the conference.

In the last 20 years:

  • Federal school meal standards have been revised so that the food children eat at school is healthier than the lunches they bring from home.
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages are no longer available to students during the school day.
  • Foods provided by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) are healthier and give mothers incentive to breast feed their babies.
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) education component is now linked to policy, systems and environmental changes.
  • The Child and Adult Care Food Program now provides healthier meals and snacks to children in childcare centers and homes across the country. 

The average quality of the diet of American children has improved, but the rate of childhood obesity in the United States is still too high.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18.5% of U.S. children and adolescents 2 to 19 years old are obese – about 13.7 million youth in all. The rates trend higher in minority communities, with 25.8% of Latinx youth and 22% of African American youth obese. Obesity is also more prevalent among children in families with low incomes.

Obesity, which is defined in children as a body mass index at or above the 95th percentile of CDC growth charts, is associated with poorer mental health status, reduced quality of life, and increased prevalence of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer.

Vice president of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, Glenda Humiston, the solution to the obesity epidemic will be multidisciplinary.

The vice president of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, Glenda Humiston, pledged the organization's commitment to community health and wellbeing at the Childhood Obesity Conference. UC ANR is the umbrella organization of the Nutrition Policy Institute, UC CalFresh Healthy Living, UC Cooperative Extension, 4-H Youth Development, the UC Master Gardener Program and the California Naturalist Program, among others.

“Going forward, solutions to the obesity epidemic are multidisciplinary,” Humiston said. “NPI does world class work in conducting research to influence nutrition policy. We need to harness 4-H. Master Gardeners are increasingly focusing on edible gardens. CalNat is getting people out into nature. We are finding synergies in community wellness.”

Humiston has dedicated UC ANR resources to finding and implementing solutions to the obesity crisis.

“I'm looking forward to working with all of you – public and private organizations – to design a way to move forward,” she said.

NPI director Lorrene Ritchie, left, and NPI associate director of research Gail Woodward-Lopez, honor NPI senior director of research emeritus Patricia Crawford (right) at the Childhood Obesity Conference.

The opening keynote presentation at the conference featured Patricia Crawford, NPI's Senior Director of Research emeritus, a pioneer in addressing the growing problem of childhood obesity during her long career. Beginning in the 1970s, she recognized that childhood obesity was on the rise and launched several studies to search for the causes and potential solutions.

In one study, Crawford followed a group of 9-year-old African American girls over a period of 10 years to determine why these youth were growing up heavier than other adolescents.

“Finally, we began to get some answers,” Crawford said. “We learned obesity wasn't the children's fault. They were living in environments that made the unhealthy choice cheaper and easier to find. It's so unfair for people who have fewer resources. Health disparities has to be the No. 1 thing we are working on to address chronic disease rates in this country.”

“The solution to obesity is prevention. It's cheaper and more effective than treatment,” Crawford continued. “Healthy food is a taste that is easy to acquire if it is not preempted by junk food.”

Crawford said she honed in on the best strategies for prevention by actively listening to people struggling to make healthy choices 

“There is a chasm between research and community,” Crawford said. “We have to get people together from the research level and the policy level with folks on the ground. We need to learn from people.”

Posted on Friday, July 26, 2019 at 12:03 PM
Focus Area Tags: Food

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