- Author: Mike Hsu
At the first White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health convened since 1969, President Biden announced on Sept. 28 a national strategy “to end hunger in America and increase healthy eating and physical activity by 2030 so fewer Americans experience diet-related diseases.” Much of the foundational research undergirding the strategy has been informed in part by the Nutrition Policy Institute, a program of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.
“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, building from all the programs and changes that were made from the last conference,” said NPI director Lorrene Ritchie.
The original Nixon-era conference produced about 1,800 recommendations – and 1,600 were eventually implemented in the subsequent years, according to Stacy Dean, U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services.
A litany of far-reaching programs grew from or were propelled by the 1969 conference: the School Breakfast Program, WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children), SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)-Ed and CalFresh Healthy Living UC, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program and more.
This history illustrates the potential for sweeping change from this 2022 conference – which gathered about 500 experts and advocates (with 1,000 more participating online) – and from the national strategy that represents the Biden-Harris administration's “playbook.”
“Does that document have everything in it that we would like? No – but, oh my goodness, if we could accomplish all the things that they've laid out, what a transformational impact it would have,” said Ritchie, adding that she was thrilled that the highest levels of government are prioritizing hunger and nutrition-related chronic disease.
Including beverages in the conversation
“NPI's recommendations were built on lots of work by many water researchers and advocates over the years; they're based on many years of thinking by many people,” Hecht said.
Christina and Ken Hecht, NPI policy director, also submitted recommendations as part of the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Reduction Workgroup, which brings together experts from national, state and local organizations. Several of their key proposals, such as targeting the marketing of sugary drinks and clarifying front-of-package nutrition labels, appear as recommended steps in the national strategy document.
Other nutrition policy changes compiled by Christina Hecht – like updating the Federal Food Service Guidelines used on federal properties and in federal programs – are also reflected in the national strategy, albeit without specifically mentioning sugary drinks. Nonetheless, Hecht believes doors have been opened for future discussions that could incorporate and promote healthy beverages.
“What those doors require are continuing to develop the evidence base, continuing to translate and share the evidence base, and continuing the advocacy to bring that evidence base to the attention of decision makers,” she said.
University of California setting an example
Suzanna Martinez, an NPI-affiliated researcher who attended the White House conference, said she hopes the convening generates momentum for two bills before Congress that would help alleviate food insecurity in higher education: one that provides funding for campuses to address students' basic needs, and another that reduces barriers to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps). The national strategy document explicitly acknowledges that “SNAP's college student eligibility restrictions are out of date given the current population who seek higher education credentials.”
Martinez, an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at University of California San Francisco, was invited to the conference because she's part of a group driving the UC's effort to halve the number of students facing food insecurity across the system by 2030. That commitment, and UC Berkeley's work on basic needs, were highlighted by Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff during the closing plenary session.
“The work that we're doing here in California tends to set the stage for what happens in other states,” said Martinez, who also cited California's pioneering effort to provide meals for all public school students.
NPI's ongoing work evaluating universal school meals in California and other states is just one example of how its academics and staff are refining innovative programs so they can be adopted more effectively and broadly (perhaps nationally). In fact, the White House identified “healthy school meals for all” as the top strategy for improving food access and affordability, and Ritchie applauds the administration's consistent emphasis on early interventions for healthier outcomes.
“The earlier you can create healthy habits – meaning in utero all the way through childhood – the more likely you are going to have adults who don't end up with nutrition-related chronic diseases,” she explained. “The last thing you want to do is to wait until people are really sick before they start to change their habits.”
Another overarching theme that excites Ritchie is the national strategy's “whole of government” approach to addressing a host of nutrition and hunger issues. One example is how the strategy calls for agencies not traditionally associated with food to contribute to reducing waste, such as the Department of the Treasury clarifying tax benefits for businesses that donate food.
“Throughout the document, over and over again, there are countless examples of creating synergies across government agencies and with local and state governments that can help move the needle,” Ritchie said. “It's just this kind of bold call to action that we really need.”/h3>/h3>
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
DiMatteo, a UC Berkeley graduate student in the School of Public Health, is working closely with Lorrene Ritchie, Nutrition Policy Institute director. DiMatteo will help analyze data on the foods provided to young children in early care and education settings to help inform policies related to healthful eating in this age group. She will also work on the evaluation of newly developed nutrition standards being piloted in family child care homes.
For more information about the UC Global Food Initiative student fellows, read the article at http://universityofcalifornia.edu/news/student-fellows-help-shape-future-food.
UC World Food Day Video Challenge
To raise awareness of the depth and breadth of food-related research and outreach being performed across the UC system, the Nutrition Policy Institute partnered with the World Food Institute at UC Davis to sponsor the UC World Food Day Video Challenge. Students from all UC campuses were invited to submit videos up to three minutes long that featured UC research. UC Davis students Carlos Orozco-Gonzalez and Umayr Sufi won with a video about advancing the science behind drying and storing food to improve food safety in developing countries.
“We are wasting a lot of food, regardless of where we are in the world,” said Irwin Donis-Gonzalez, a UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Biological & Agricultural Engineering at UC Davis, who is featured in the video. “With Carlos and Umayr, we are combining biological and engineering sensing concepts that can be applied to solving world issues.”
The winning team received $1,000 and a trip to attend the Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium in Des Moines.
To view the top five videos, visit http://worldfoodcenter.ucdavis.edu/nutrition/uc-davis-teams-awarded-top-prizes.html.
Higher education collaborates to fight student food insecurity
Representatives of the University of California, California State University and California Community College systems met in Fresno on Sept. 6 to discuss food access and basic needs security for students.
As part of UC's Global Food Initiative, the Nutrition Policy Institute recently published a report based on a survey of food security among UC students at all 10 campuses. The “Student Food Access and Security Study” includes the survey results and UC's plans for addressing food security issues. CSU is currently conducting a systemwide survey of its student population and CCC is planning to conduct a survey of its students. UC was represented by Ruben Canedo of UC Berkeley, Tim Galarneu of UC Santa Cruz, and NPI's Ritchie and Suzanna Martinez.
After CSU and CCC complete their surveys, the group will meet again in December to discuss best practices to ensure food security in California public higher education.
In recognition of World Food Day, National Food Dayand the UC Global Food Initiative, ANR, UCOP Staff Assembly and UCOP Professional Community have partnered with the Alameda County Community Food Bank to help feed the hungry. From Oct. 17 to 31, we are collecting food items in bins located near the elevators on each floor of UCOP's Franklin building, and on UCOP floors at the Kaiser, Broadway and 20th St. buildings in Oakland.
There are two ways you can participate:
- Donate non-perishable food items to the bin located near the elevators on the 10th floor of the Franklin building
- Donate online via the ACCFB Virtual Food Drive website set up for UCOP at
www.vfd-accfb.org. Select “UCOP” in the dropdown menu on the right side of the page and choose "10th floor Franklin building.
Donations will be collected and counted at 5 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 31. The floor that collects the most donations will win a $100 gift basket from the Oakland Farmers Market.
For more information, contact Suzanna Martinez, Nutrition Policy Institute, at email@example.com
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
Konrad Mathesius (pronounced “Muh-tay-zee-us”) is the new UCCE agronomy advisor for Yolo, Sacramento and Solano counties.
Mathesius, who joined ANR on June 27, will be working with growers and pest control advisers in the Capitol Corridor area to address issues related to soils, pests, diseases and production efficiency. In addition to collaborating on a few projects with UCCE advisor Rachael Long in alfalfa, dry beans and sunflowers, he will work on a wide range of agronomic crops including corn, wheat, barley and safflower.
Mathesius will work with growers and PCAs to mitigate crop losses by addressing pest and disease pressures and to help them comply with nitrogen, pesticide and water regulations. He also plans to develop crop guidelines based on difficulties associated with specific soils in the Capitol Corridor.
The native of Logan, Utah, earned his undergraduate degree at Utah State and his master's degrees in soil science and international agricultural development at UC Davis.
“After graduation, I spent a few years working in the private sector, where I gained a sense of respect for bottom lines and the hustle to make ends meet,” Mathesius said. “I intend to bring the question of cost and efficiency into most, if not all of my work.”
Based in Woodland, Mathesius can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (530) 666-8704.
Kathryn Stein has joined ANR as executive assistant to Wendy Powers, Associate Vice President
Prior to joining ANR, Stein worked in the College of Engineering Dean's office at UC Berkeley for three and a half years. She earned a B.S. in environmental horticulture and urban forestry from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis. While in Davis, she worked for the Whole Earth Festival, an annual sustainability festival on the UC Davis campus.
Stein is based on the 10th floor of UCOP and can be reached at Kathryn.Stein@ucop.edu and (510) 587-6240.
Martinez and Au receive NIH Career Development Awards
Two researchers at the Nutrition Policy Institute have been awarded K01 Career Development Awards by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Lauren Au will research disparities in the relationship between the school nutrition environment and childhood obesity and Suzanna Martinez will study sleep duration and risk for obesity in Mexican-American children.
Martinez will receive $895,620 and Au will receive $840,871. Martinez has also been accepted into the K Scholars Program at UC San Francisco, which will provide her with peer support and mentorship to conduct the study.
Barbara Allen-Diaz, who retired as ANR vice president in 2015, is among five Land Grant university leaders recognized for Excellence in National Leadership by the Experiment Station Section of the Association of Public and Land‑grant Universities (APLU).
The other individuals honored with Allen-Diaz were:
- Walter A. Hill, Dean, College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences, Tuskegee University
- Steve Slack, formerly associate vice president for agricultural administration and director of OARDC, The Ohio State University (recently retired)
- Daniel Rossi, formerly executive director, Northeastern Regional Association of State Agricultural Experiment Station Directors (recently retired)
- William (Bill) Brown, dean of research and director of the Tennessee Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Tennessee
The resolution reads in part: “These leaders have personified the highest level of excellence by enhancing the cause and performance of the Regional Associations and Experiment Station Section in achieving their mission and the Land-grant ideal.”
The awards were announced at the annual Experiment Station Section meeting on Sept. 21 in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Khaled Bali became a UCCE irrigation water management specialist on July 18.
Since joining UC ANR in 1992 as an irrigation and water management advisor in Imperial County, Bali has also served in leadership positions. From 2009 until accepting the UCCE specialist position, he was the UCCE director in Imperial County. In 2012-2013 and 2014-2015, he served as interim director of the UC Desert Research and Extension Center in Holtville.
His research and extension projects encompass irrigation, drainage, water management, water quality, soil salinity, waste management, reuse of wastewater for irrigation and nonpoint-source pollution control practices. Bali, who has been an active participant in the UC-Mexico Initiative, continues to collaborate with researchers from the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California on irrigation projects.
Bali earned his Ph.D. in soil physics and M.S. in irrigation and drainage from UC Davis and B.S. in soil and irrigation from the University of Jordan. He was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Jordan (2006-2007), where he conducted research on wastewater reuse for irrigation and constructed wetlands to treat wastewater.
Bali is based at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier and can be reached at (559) 646-6541 and email@example.com.
Alireza Pourreza joined UCCE on June 30 as an area agricultural application engineering advisor.
Prior to joining UCCE, Pourreza was a postdoctoral research associate at University of Florida, where he conducted research in detection of citrus black spot disease using spectrometry and aerial image analysis. While at Florida, he developed an autonomous sensing system using a field robot.
From 2011 to 2014, he was also a graduate assistant at the University of Florida, conducting research and lecturing. His doctoral dissertation focused on interdisciplinary research in citrus diseases detection. Pourreza developed two real-time, vision-based sensors for detecting citrus huanglongbing disease for laboratory and field experiments. On Dec. 23, 2015, he published a patent, “Method for Huanglongbing (HLB) Detection” (WO 2015/193885, 2015), for the polarized imaging technique that he developed. From 2004 to 2011, Pourreza, who is fluent in Farsi, was a technical expert and project manager for BinaPardaz Shargh Company in Mashhad, Iran.
Pourreza completed a Ph.D. and an M.S. in agricultural and biological engineering at the University of Florida. He earned an M.S. in mechanics of agricultural machinery and a B.S. in farm machinery engineering from Ferdowsi University, Mashhad, Iran.
Pourreza is based at Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center and can be reached at (559) 646-6577 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Suzanna Martinez, who joined ANR in 2014 as an analyst for the Nutrition Policy Institute, became an assistant researcher on June 1. She recently co-authored UC's Student Food Access and Security Study with UC Santa Barbara sustainability coordinator Katie Maynard and NPI director Lorrene Ritchie.
Prior to joining ANR, Martinez, who is fluent in Spanish, completed her second postdoctoral fellowship at UC San Francisco, where she studied determinants of obesity among Latino children, including sleep and nutrition. From 2009 to 2012, she was a postdoctoral fellow at UC San Diego in the Department of Pediatrics, studying cardiovascular health in Chileans.
Martinez earned her B.S. in biochemistry and cell biology from UC San Diego, M.S. in nutrition education from Columbia University and Ph.D. in public health from the Joint Doctoral Program at UC San Diego and San Diego State University.
Based at UCOP, Martinez can be reached at (510) 587-6264, email@example.com and on Twitter @drSusieMartinez.
Burton joins Contracts and Grants
Suzanne Burton began working in ANR's Office of Contracts and Grants on Aug. 1 as a senior analyst. She will work with UCCE county offices and statewide programs, reviewing proposals for submission, reviewing and drafting award documents and writing subawards.
Over the past 15 years, Burton has worked at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine assisting principal investigators in preparing their proposals as well as at the Office of Research's Sponsored Programs Office as a contracts and grants and research administration analyst.
Burton is located in the ANR building in Davis and can be reached at (530) 750-1386 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
The cash donations translated into nearly $23,000 worth of fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy food items for the 49,000 local families the food bank serves each week, said Suzanna Martinez, Nutrition Policy Institute analyst, who organized the food drive.
During the week of Oct. 19, bins for food collection were placed at all UCOP locations in Oakland. As an incentive for employees to participate, UC ANR offered $100 worth of fresh produce from the Oakland Farmers Market for the floor with the most points.
The winners of the $100 farmers market basket were the employees of the 10th floor of the Franklin Street building, who donated $888. Coincidentally UC ANR's headquarters is on the 10th floor. Runners-up in the competition were the 20th Street building, which raised $673, and Franklin 5th floor, which donated $570.