The excessive consumption of added sugars by Americans has surpassed the recommended levels outlined in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, highlighting a pressing public health concern.The Nutrition Policy Institute at the University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources submitted a public comment in response to the US Food and Drug Administration's call for strategies to reduce added sugars consumption in the United States. The comment outlines 13 recommended actions for federal agencies and four recommended actions that other stakeholders can take to minimize added sugars consumption. Additionally, NPI urged the FDA to address safety concerns around the replacement of added sugars with low- and no-calorie sweeteners, specifically among children. Federal agencies and stakeholders have ample opportunities to decrease added sugars consumption in the US. and NPI emphasized the need for action on recommendations to enhance food safety and empower consumers to make healthier choices. The public comment period was open from November 6, 2023, to January 22, 2024. All submitted comments are available to view online on Regulations.gov.
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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP nationally, and commonly known as CalFresh in California, gives approximately 3.3 million college students access to essential food assistance. However, an estimated 57% of SNAP-eligible students do not enroll. The research team conducted individual and group interviews from February 2020 and December 2021 through Zoom to gain insight into the student SNAP application process from the perspective of CalFresh county agency workers. Through this qualitative approach, the research team aimed to better understand the student SNAP application process from the perspective of county agency workers. The study identified 5 central themes, in which county agency workers perceived the process as challenging for students, and burdensome for administration workers. The research study was recently published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior by Suzanna Martinez, Sonali Singh, and Erin Esaryk with the University of California San Francisco, San Francisco's Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Nutrition Policy Institute researcher, Lorrene Ritchie.
Wendi Gosliner from the Nutrition Policy Institute discussed efforts to enhance population health and nutrition, focusing on eliminating disparities and improving federal food programs in a recent If I Could Change One Thing health policy podcast episode. Highlighting policy amendments during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gosliner emphasized the impact on food access, particularly for SNAP, WIC, school meal programs, and expansion of the Child Tax Credit. Stressing the importance of tackling food insecurity and reducing waste, she called for comprehensive interventions in federal nutrition programs. “When we think about growing food, and all of the inputs that are needed to grow food—the energy, the water, the soil, the human labor, the money to harvest it and transport it— then it gets to us, we buy it, we store it, and then we often throw it away," said Gosliner. "The amount of resources that's wasted with each food item that is thrown away is immense. And then not only that, but food, when it's decomposing in landfills, creates methane, which is a greenhouse gas contributor all on its own. So, for so many reasons, having us throwing away a lot of food is incredibly costly.” Gosliner, NPI's director of food policy research and translation, shared insights with co-hosts James Romine and Rocio Flores in season eight, episode one of the podcast. The podcast is produced by the San Diego State University, School of Public Health. Listen online.
In May 2020, running until the end of the 2021-2022 school year, the US Congress authorized the US Department of Agriculture to issue nationwide waivers that allowed all schools to provide universal free school meals to mitigate the impacts of school closures as well as the broader economic challenges faced by families during the COVID-19 emergency. This study aimed to examine parent perceptions about school free meals and whether these perceptions differed by race and ethnicity. In May 2022, 1100 California parents of K-12 students from varying racial and ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, and State regions responded to a survey to share their perspectives about school meals during the school year 2021-22. Across all racial and ethnic groups, California parents reported that free school meals offered multiple benefits to families, saving them money, time, and stress, and expressed that the stigma associated with school meals was low. However, parents expressed that there was an area for improvement in the variety, taste, and healthfulness of school meals, where parents of Hispanic and Asian students reported less favorable perceptions of these qualities than parents of White students. This study suggests that there is strong support among parents for free school meals, but further efforts are needed to implement a variety of culturally appropriate school meals and make improvements in their taste and healthfulness. Results from the study were recently published in the Health Affairs Scholar journal. The study was conducted by Nutrition Policy Institute researchers Monica Zuercher, Christina Hecht, Kenneth Hecht, and Dania Orta-Aleman in collaboration with Juliana Cohen, Deborah Olarte, and Leah Chapman from Merrimack College, Punam Ohri-Vachaspati from Arizona State University, Michele Polacsek from the University of New England, Margaret Read from Share Our Strength, Anisha Patel from Stanford Pediatrics, and Marlene Schwartz from the University of Connecticut.