Findings from a recent study indicate that most California schools are providing drinking water that meets current safety standards. However, the authors suggest that continued attention and investments are needed to assure tap water safety in all schools. Researchers partnered with 83 schools from a representative sample of 240 California public schools to collect and analyze tap water samples for five common drinking water contaminants: arsenic, nitrate, hexavalent chromium, copper and lead. The first three may occur naturally in groundwater but can also come from agricultural or industrial activities. Lead and copper are heavy metals that may be found in building plumbing and can be present in tap water under certain conditions. No tap water samples violated the California state action level for arsenic or nitrate, two contaminants that should be brought to levels at or below state standards by water utility treatment of their sourcewater. Four percent of schools had at least one sample that exceeded California's proposed 10 parts per billion action level for hexavalent chromium. Four percent of schools exceeded the 1300 ppb state action level for copper. A notable feature of the study was its detailed analysis of lead in tap water. Four percent of study schools had at least one first-draw tap water sample that exceeded the 15 ppb state action level for lead, 18% exceeded the US Food and Drug Administration's bottled water standard of 5 ppb, and 75% exceeded the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation of 1 ppb. Researchers found that turning on the affected taps to “flush” pipes for 45 seconds reduced observed lead concentrations above 15, 5, and 1 ppb to 2%, 10%, and 33% of schools, respectively. These findings provide valuable information for mitigating the presence of lead in tap water. The study, “A Comprehensive Examination of the Contaminants in Drinking Water in Public Schools in California, 2017-2022”, was published online on September 4, 2023 in the journal Public Health Reports. It was conducted by researchers from the University of California's Nutrition Policy Institute, Stanford University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute.
The Nutrition Policy Institute at the University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources is seeking to hire two Assistant or Associate Project Scientists to support our work to evaluate California's universal school meals program. The positions will conduct literature reviews and develop research questions, hypotheses and study methods; develop participant recruitment and retention protocols and protocols for IRB submission; and design and conduct collaborative research and evaluation projects, including conducting quantitative and qualitative analysis. They will facilitate state and national interactions between researchers, policymakers, and diverse community groups. The positions will write grants, research reports and peer-reviewed publications and develop science-based policy and environmental solutions to lifestyle-related health problems for diverse populations. The salaries are $71,500 to $91,000 or $87,000 to $107,600 annually. The positions are based at our Oakland, California office and each is a one-year renewable term appointment with possible extension. More information about the positions and how to apply is available online. Application packets must be received by October 10, 2023 to ensure full consideration. The University of California is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
The article “Parent perceptions of changes in eating behavior during COVID-19 of school-aged children from Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) eligible households in California” was recently published in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports. The study examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the eating behaviors of school-aged children from households with low income eligible for the Supplemental Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) in California. Researchers assessed parent perceptions of changes in their children's eating habits throughout the pandemic, identifying shifts in dietary patterns that included a decreased use of school meals, and other changes observed by parents such as cooking at home, fast food, and fruits and vegetable consumption. The research underscores the need for tailored strategies in schools and at home to support the nutritional well-being of children during future public health emergency conditions. The study was led by Nutrition Policy Institute researchers Suzanne Rauzon, Sri Hewawitharana, Erin Esaryk, Hannah Thompson, Gail Woodward-Lopez, and California Department of Public Health co-authors Lauren Whetstone and Ingrid Cordon.
Good nutrition, and improved health, attendance, academics, and school climate are some of the benefits when schools offer meals at no charge to all students. California and Maine, followed by six other states, have already enacted legislation to provide daily meals at school to all K-12 public school students, at no charge regardless of family income level. According to tracking by the Food Research and Action Center, over half of the remaining states are working to pass School Meals for All legislation. Additionally, a bill has been offered at the federal level. Researchers at the Nutrition Policy Institute, Arizona State University, the University of Connecticut, Boise State University and Merrimack College developed a summary of the evidence on the benefits of universal school meal programs. The researchers who developed the synopsis work collaboratively on evaluations of new state School Meals for All programs.
Nearly 40% of community college students experience food insecurity and may skip meals because they can't afford to eat. The Nutrition Policy Institute, along with the University of California and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, endorsed the Food for Thought Act, bicameral legislation that would bring free meal programs to community college campuses and minority serving institutions—helping address food insecurity for students at those institutions. The Food for Thought Act will also provide funding to conduct campus outreach and provide information to participating students on eligibility for federal food assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and collect data on food insecurity on campuses to expand anti-hunger programming. Grant funding can also be used to update much needed food infrastructure on campus that students can use and build food pantries and community gardens on campus. The Food For Thought Act was introduced by Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and joined by Representative Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), and Senators Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) on July 20, 2023. The legislation has numerous co-sponsors in both the House and Senate and endorsements from experts in food insecurity and higher education.