The U.S. government should promote plain drinking water as the beverage of choice, according to comments submitted today by the University of California's Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) at a public meeting for oral testimony on the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. The institute also urged the U.S. Department
of Agriculture to add a symbol for water to its MyPlate graphic.
NPI experts said the government should employ strong language encouraging consumption of plain drinking water as a strategy in the fight against childhood obesity. Studies have established that Americans' single largest source of added sugars is sugar-sweetened beverages, that sugar-sweetened beverages are among the top sources of calories for U.S. children and teens, and that there are income and racial disparities in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption.
“It is clear from the evidence that a major contributor to obesity is sugary drinks,” said NPI Director Lorrene Ritchie. “And the healthiest alternative to sugary drinks is plain water.”
NPI noted that the Advisory Committee's 2015 scientific report said, “Strategies are needed to encourage the U.S. population to drink water when they are thirsty.” MyPlate – the infographic used by USDA to portray the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans – is the “ideal platform” from which to encourage water consumption, according to NPI. In its comments, the institute said, “the addition of a water symbol will enable MyPlate to promote water consumption along with its other strong messages about a healthy diet.”
Ritchie said NPI is encouraging the public to join them in sending a message to the government. “Tell Washington to make water first for thirst and ask the USDA to reinforce it with an icon for water on MyPlate,” she said.
NPI developed a “Take Action!” page on its website with easy-to-follow guidelines for submitting comments on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The “Take Action!” web page is located at http://npi.ucanr.edu/water.
The Nutrition Policy Institute was created in 2014 by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, the division of the University of California system charged with sharing research-based information with the public about healthy communities, nutrition, agricultural production and environmental stewardship. The institute seeks to improve eating habits and reduce obesity, hunger and chronic disease risk in California children and their families and beyond. Visit NPI online at http://npi.ucanr.edu.
- Author: Pat Bailey, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-9843, email@example.com
The percentage of overweight or obese children in test schools dropped from 56 percent to 38 percent over the course of a single school year, thanks to a new nutrition program developed and tested in the classroom by nutrition researchers at the University of California, Davis.
The new program fits into the new Common Core educational standards.
"The education component of this program is intended to help children develop nutrition-related problem solving skills," said co-author Jessica Linnell, a senior doctoral candidate in the UC Davis Department of Nutrition. "We think that these skills, combined with knowledge about foods, may be critical in order for children to make healthy choices."
Researchers say the program could be adopted nationally at little cost to schools. The program was pilot-tested for this study in schools located in Sacramento and Stanislaus counties. Study findings were reported recently during the Experimental Biology 2014 meeting.
"When we designed the study, we anticipated short-term outcomes such as kids having more knowledge of nutrition or being able to identify more vegetables," said Rachel Scherr, assistant project scientist in the UC Davis Department of Nutrition and one of the study's lead investigators. "We always had a long-term goal of decreasing body mass index, but we didn't anticipate that it would happen in such a short timeframe, so we are thrilled."
In a randomized control study, the researchers found that fourth-graders who participated in the nutrition program ate substantially more vegetables and lowered their body mass index during the school year that the nutrition program was implemented.
Senior author Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr, a Cooperative Extension specialist In the Department of Nutrition and co-director of the UC Davis Center for Nutrition in Schools, said that the project could not have been possible without the work of a highly interdisciplinary team, including collaborators from University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources; the UC Davis departments of Nutrition, Human Ecology, Population Health and Reproduction, and Plant Sciences; the UC Davis Health System, Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing, Foods for Health Institute and Agricultural Sustainability Institute; and the University of Utah Department of Physics and Astronomy.
The study was funded by a UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Competitive Grant.
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
Farm to school programs increase children's access to fresh, seasonal produce
Eating more locally grown food could improve the health of students and the local economy
The dramatic rise of obesity and diabetes in children has prompted nutrition experts to encourage parents to offer their children a more healthful diet with more produce. Yet fewer than 10 percent of California children consume the minimum recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables, according to a 2009 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"School nutrition program directors are in the driver's seat. They're already making good decisions about changing school food across their districts," said Gail Feenstra, food systems analyst for the University of California's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, who led the study. "We wanted to bring the resources of the university to bear and help them move forward."
For this three-year project, the UC researchers worked with three school districts: Oakland Unified School District, Winters Joint Unified School District (west of Sacramento) and Enterprise Elementary School District in Redding.
"The objective was to connect regional growers with school lunch programs so they could buy more fresh seasonal regional food for the school meal program," Feenstra said. "To encourage school gardening, we provided professional development for the school nutrition program directors, teachers, parents and others. We also measured kids' consumption of fresh seasonal regional food and their preferences for fresh vegetables."
The results have been positive: all three districts increased their purchases of fresh, seasonal, local produce. The definition of "local" varies depending on the location of the school district and time of year, but is generally within a 250-mile radius. Much of the success is due to the creativity of school chefs in modifying their purchasing practices and making delicious meals from the fresh produce.
Oakland Unified chef Donnie Barclift won an award from celebrity chef Rachael Ray for his recipe for pozole con pescado, a zesty tomato-based soup filled with fish and vegetables.
"I take great pride in the work we are doing to integrate into our menus, not just fresh, but fresh local seasonal produce," said Barclift. "It's also important that we are teaching kids where their food comes from and the importance of fresh produce in their daily diets. It's wonderful to get food fresh from a farm instead of a factory."
Oakland Unified School District spent $794,000 on produce the first year, of which 11 percent was local. In the final year, Oakland's total produce purchases increased to $1.36 million with 31 percent locally sourced. Winters Joint Unified School District's produce purchases leaped from $7,707 and 6.6 percent local to $43,000 and 51 percent local. Enterprise Elementary School District doubled its produce spending from $89,000 and 4.4 percent local to $177,000 and 20 percent local.
In Winters, students more than doubled their consumption of fruit and total produce. Rominger Middle School planted a new school garden that is contributing to students learning about growing their own food. WJUSD students' parents reported a significant increase in their children's consumption of kiwi fruit at home and a slight increase in overall consumption of vegetables.
Students were asked to identify, taste and rate fresh, raw produce such as asparagus, cucumber, bell pepper, cabbage and kiwi fruit. Overall, the students improved their ability to identify the selected fruit and vegetables. Students reported that they would ask a family member to purchase spinach and bell pepper and that they would eat them as a snack.
"We were excited to learn that the students exposed to this program were able to identify new types of produce and that they would ask their families to purchase these items at home. This is an important step towards increasing children's consumption of fruits and vegetables," said Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Nutrition and co-director of the Center for Nutrition in Schools at UC Davis
Each school district has reaped other benefits from the project. Oakland developed a new bid process for buying produce to specify that products had to come from local farms and was able to increase local produce purchases by 40 percent.
In Winters, parents, farmers and others formed a nonprofit farm to school organization to raise money so the school district can continue the farm to school efforts. The money will help buy fresh local produce, support school gardens and fund other related activities.
In Redding, a grower began acting as an aggregator, delivering local produce from several local farms to the school district's kitchen so the school could work with one supplier and write a single check. Enterprise Elementary School District has also added nutrition education to the professional development offered to its staff.
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources has awarded Zidenberg-Cherr's research group a grant to work on the "Shaping Healthy Choices Program" with two other school districts – Elk Grove Unified School District in Sacramento County and Sylvan Union School District in Stanislaus County. They are studying how a multi-component program that includes classroom nutrition education, family and community participation, regional produce procurement, nutrition services and school gardening can influence students' food choices, critical thinking skills and health-related outcomes. This is a highly collaborative project that relies on expertise from the Department of Nutrition, Human Ecology, Population Health and Reproduction at UC Davis, the UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute, UC Davis Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing and UC Cooperative Extension in Sacramento and Stanislaus counties. The UC researchers are working with school staff and school wellness committee members to ensure the schools will be able to continue the Shaping Healthy Choices Program on their own.
Feenstra sees the key to encouraging children to eat fruits and vegetables throughout their lives as requiring more than putting the produce on their plates at school. Enticing them to try new items, getting them interested in growing food in gardens, teaching them about nutrition and involving their parents all play important roles in the learning process, she said.
"Since Cooperative Extension is a part of so many different counties, as we move forward in farm to school, I think that making sure that we involve Cooperative Extension and the nutrition education component in addition to school gardening and procurement is a really important way to think comprehensively about where we need to go next," Feenstra said.
In addition to improving children's access to fresh, seasonal produce, farm to school programs provide new markets for regional farmers.
This farm to school study was funded by a grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.
Prize-winning recipe created by Donnie Barclift, Oakland Unified School District chef
Servings: 50 one-cup servings
Raw Atlantic Pollock. As an option, you may use other types of fish such as cod or tilapia.
1. Coat baking pan with oil or melted butter.
2. Lay filets in baking pan.
3. Combine the garlic and chili powder and cumin.
4. Lightly sprinkle seasoning blend on filets and bake until done in a pre-heated 350 degree oven (about 5 to 7 minutes).
5. Once done, allow fish to sit for five minutes then cut into chunks, about 1-inch cubes.
1. Saute celery and onions in 4 TBSP olive oil until onions are translucent.
1.5 cups celery, chopped
1.5 cups onion, fresh, diced
2. Combine the sauteed onion and celery with the ingredients below in a soup pot and bring to a simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2 #10 can tomatoes, crushed
1 #10 can + 5 cups yellow hominy (undrained)
14 oz diced green chilis
3/4 cup chili powder
3 TBSP garlic, granulated
2 TBSP cumin
1 TBSP cayenne pepper, ground
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3. Add kale during the last 10 minutes
4. Wash and shred the cabbage. Serve 1/8 cup on top of soup for garnish.
1.5 lb cabbage, fresh, raw, chopped
Serving the pozole:
To insure proper fish portioning, portion 1 cup of the soup into a serving bowl, then float 1 ounce of fish chunks on the soup. Serve with warm, whole-grain flat bread or another bread item that equals 1 grain bread. Half of a 6-inch whole grain flat bread is the portion. Heat in a warmer, cut into quarters before serving and serve 2 quarters of bread per bowl of pozole./span>
- Contact: Karen Nikos, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-6101, firstname.lastname@example.org, cell, (530) 219-5472
Called "Ninos Sanos, Familia Sana" (Healthy Children, Health Family), the center is a collaborative effort of the University of California, Davis, the University of California Cooperative Extension, and local communities and organizations.
"Opening this center really gives us an opportunity to work with the community -- to be there for children and families and show we are committed to promoting good nutrition and physical activity," said Adela de la Torre, professor of Chicana/o studies and director of the Center for Transnational Health at UC Davis. "We want to help them learn the best approaches to preventing obesity now and in the long term."
Part of a five-year, $4.8 million study aimed at identifying effective approaches to combating obesity, the center will address a problem that affects more than four in 10 children born to parents of Mexican heritage, putting them at greater risk of early diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Planning for the study, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, began last year. The study will conclude in 2016.
During the study, 400 Firebaugh children and their families will receive practical tools, education and incentives to help them eat healthy diets and get sufficient exercise. Interventions will include:
- $25 monthly in vouchers for families to buy fruits and vegetables at participating markets;
- classroom instruction for children on nutrition and physical activity;
- 10 family education nights per year in which parents will learn how to select and use fresh ingredients to prepare healthy meals for themselves and their children; and
- twice-yearly health screenings to monitor weight, blood pressure, body-mass index, skinfold thickness and waist circumference.
At the same time, 400 children and families in the town of San Joaquin will receive:
- twice-yearly health screenings
- a series of forums designed to assist parents in supporting their children's education
The San Joaquin community will also benefit from these outreach
- UC Davis will collaborate with area schools to enrich the science curriculum.
- A community mural project will depict the rich cultural heritage and history of the community. (The mural, painted on an outdoor wall of a community learning center in San Joaquin, will be unveiled on Sunday, Sept. 16).
At the study's conclusion, de la Torre and her research colleagues will have data to show whether the food vouchers and health education programs tested in Firebaugh are effective, using San Joaquin as a control. San Joaquin families and schools will then receive much of the same intervention used in Firebaugh, with assistance from UC Cooperative Extension specialists.
Both Firebaugh and San Joaquin are located in Congressional District 20, an area with the nation's lowest human development index, an international measurement of wellbeing based on longevity, standard of living and other factors.
"The irony here is that their parents may harvest vegetables in the fields -- some of the richest agricultural land anywhere in the world -- but their children rarely share in this bounty," de la Torre said. "We need to provide better access to fresh vegetables and fruit in stores and teach these families how to prepare these foods in easy and convenient ways, to make these good foods part of their lives. That is what this program is about."
An agricultural economist, de la Torre has studied Latino health issues in the U.S. and Mexico for more than 25 years.
Throughout the study, an advisory committee made up of school, community and parent representatives from each community will provide feedback on program strategies, approaches, concerns and solutions to the barriers that prevent children from maintaining healthy weights.
Participants include parents who have volunteered to have their families take part; grocery stores; health professionals (Sablan Medical Clinics); a nonprofit, community-based program of promotoras, or outreach workers (Proteus, Inc.); school teachers and administrators (Firebaugh-Las Deltas Unified School District and Golden Plains Unified School District in San Joaquin).
Also participating are about 20 educational specialists, economists, nutritionists, psychologists, physicians, and graduate and undergraduate students from UC Davis and the University of California Cooperative Extension.
Lucia Kaiser, Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis Department of Nutrition and a co-investigator on the study, said:
"This project is an exciting opportunity for UC Davis and UC Cooperative Extension to pull a multidisciplinary team of social scientists, nutritionists and other professionals to work in partnership with an underserved community to prevent a pressing health problem -- childhood obesity."
- Interviews will be available in Spanish. Lean en espanol: http://www.news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=10329]
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
While earning a bachelor’s degree in home economics education from South Dakota State University, Johns took a summer job with South Dakota Cooperative Extension teaching at an Indian reservation.
“One of my assignments was to teach nutrition to families on the reservation,” Johns recalls. “That’s where I learned that delivering a scripted program is not always the most effective. The beauty of Cooperative Extension is having the flexibility to tailor educational programs to meet the needs of your clientele.”
Although the Brookings, S.D., native had participated in 4-H and her father was a Cooperative Extension economics specialist at South Dakota State University, Johns didn’t really know the community-based educational organization until she began working for UC Cooperative Extension in 1974 as an advisor for Plumas, Sierra, Lassen and Modoc counties. She coordinated the 4-H youth development and nutrition education programs for those four counties until 1983, when she became a UCCE advisor in El Dorado and Amador counties in the same role.
In 1985, Johns transferred to San Mateo and San Francisco counties to serve an urban population as the UCCE 4-H youth development and nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor. One of her projects was starting a school garden in Pacifica. She recruited senior citizens to teach the children how to grow vegetables. The senior citizens’ requests for guidance led her to develop TWIGS, 30 gardening and nutrition lessons for “Teams With Intergenerational Support.” Published in 1997, Johns continues to receive requests for the TWIGS curriculum. More than 3,500 copies have been sold to schools, after school programs, parks and recreation and YMCA programs, senior centers, nutrition networks and food banks in 22 states. California’s Department of Education uses TWIGS as an example of gardening curricula addressing education standards.
While serving the Bay Area, Johns earned a master’s degree in public administration with an emphasis in human resources at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont. In 2005, Johns was promoted to director for UCCE in San Francisco and San Mateo counties and director of Elkus Ranch, an environmental education and conference center in Half Moon Bay that provides hands-on learning experiences for San Francisco Bay Area youth. In 2011, Johns was also named director of UCCE in Santa Clara County.
In addition to promoting nutrition education and agricultural literacy through gardening, Johns has studied teen pregnancy. An article that she coauthored, “Best Practices in Teen Pregnancy Prevention,” was one of the most visited online articles of the Journal of Extension in 2005.
A founding member of the San Mateo Food Alliance System and a member of the statewide School Garden Network, Johns and nonprofit partners Hidden Villa and Collective Roots recently received a three-year grant of $173,000 per year from Sequoia Healthcare District to improve children’s health through garden-based learning.
While there have been groups who advocate for school gardens and those who promote nutrition, they haven’t always worked together in the past, says Jennifer Gabet, nutrition manager for Sequoia Healthcare District. Through a unique collaboration and development of a model teaching garden, 1, 2, 3 Let’s Grow! will emphasize growing edible plants, providing the students with fresh produce to eat and demonstrating how to prepare the fruit and vegetables they grow.
“Marilyn has been able to bring the two groups together, to see the garden as a mechanism to improve the school food environment and nutrition education,” Gabet said. “They teach science, but it doesn’t always include nutrition – discussion of the benefits of the foods grown and how students and families can include them in their diets to support their health.”
“This grant is pretty exciting,” Johns said, explaining that it incorporates nutrition education into hands-on activities for children, which is a more effective teaching method. She oversees the UC Master Gardener volunteers and UCCE nutrition educators who will be training K-12 teachers, parents and other participants at up to 34 schools on how to enhance children’s learning while gardening.
In retirement, Johns, who has been granted emeritus status, looks forward to continuing to contribute to garden-based learning as well as spending time with family and traveling for pleasure.