A recent study examined changes in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education programming by California's local health departments during the COVID-19 pandemic. Local health department SNAP-Ed programs comprise California's largest obesity prevention program. In March 2020, when schools and other institutions closed their doors in response to the COVID-19 emergency, the impact on public health programs like SNAP-Ed was immediate and large. As the pandemic continued, California's local health departments reported numerous challenges, including the diversion of staff, funding, and other resources from programs like SNAP-Ed to emergency response. Nutrition Policy Institute researchers measured the changes in local health department SNAP-Ed programming and documented dramatic reductions in reach and dose during the early stages of the pandemic. Reductions disproportionately impacted disadvantaged communities, including those with higher poverty, higher proportions of Black and Latino residents, and less healthy neighborhood conditions. Disproportionately reduced access to important health programs may have worsened health disparities in diet and physical activity-related chronic diseases, as well as increasing susceptibility to COVID-19. This study demonstrates the importance of an equity-centered approach to promoting healthy eating and active living, even—or perhaps especially—during public health emergencies. Study results were published in the journal SSM-Population Health by Gail Woodward-Lopez, Erin Esaryk, Sridharshi Hewawitharana, Janice Kao, Evan Talmage, and Carolyn Rider of NPI with funding from the USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education.
Young people across California and the U.S. enjoy healthier, more nutritious food options at school, thanks to the contributions of Gail Woodward-Lopez, who retired on July 1 as the associate director of research at the Nutrition Policy Institute, a part of University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. Woodward-Lopez officially joined UCANR in 2015, when she and other researchers at the Atkins Center for Weight and Health at UC Berkeley merged with NPI. But her association with UCANR goes back much further, as her work at CWH was always directed by UC Cooperative Extension academics – including the research that paved the way for California's "junk food ban" in schools. At NPI, the focus of Woodward-Lopez's work has been refining the evaluation and delivery of SNAP-Ed, the educational component of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly referred to as "food stamps"). Known in California as CalFresh Healthy Living, SNAP-Ed represents the largest single source of ongoing funding for nutrition and physical activity promotion in the state – outside of the WIC program which serves women, infants and young children. "CalFresh Healthy Living can really impact millions of people," Woodward-Lopez said. "For county health departments, this is one of their main sources of funding and provides the backbone for everything else they do in nutrition and physical activity." Read more about Woodward-Lopez's numerous contributions to NPI and the field of public health nutrition. People interested in supporting Woodward-Lopez's legacy and the ongoing work in health and nutrition can donate to NPI's Student Fellowship, which provides students from underrepresented groups the opportunity to work on NPI research and be mentored by NPI researchers.
Nutrition Policy Institute researchers will present their collaborative research findings at the American Society for Nutrition, Nutrition 2023 annual conference in-person in Boston, Mass. Alana Chaney, a University of California, Davis graduate student, will present a poster on July 22, 10:05 to 10:09 a.m ET titled “Newly Developed Infant Diet Quality Index (IDQI) Predicts Nutrient Outcomes in Young Children ages 2-5" as part of a Poster Theater Flash Session - Innovations in Infant, Pediatric, and Pregnancy Nutrition Research: New Tools and Methodologies. The poster is co-authored by NPI-affiliated researcher Lauren Au and Charles Arnold from UC Davis, Lorrene Ritchie from NPI, and Edward Frongillo from the University of South Carolina. Lauren Au will present a poster on July 23, 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. ET titled “Differences in infant diet quality by race and ethnicity predict differences in later diet quality.” The poster is co-authored by Charles Arnold and Sarina Lin from UC Davis, Lorrene Ritchie and Edward Frongillo. NPI's Sridharshi Hewawitharana will present a poster on July 24, 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. titled, "Student and School Characteristics Modify the Impact of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education on Student Dietary Outcomes.” The poster is co-authored by NPI's Kaela Plank, Amanda Linares and Gail Woodward-Lopez./span>
Nutrition Policy Institute researchers will present their collaborative research findings at the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior International Annual 2023 Conference in Washington, D.C. Wendi Gosliner presents on July 22, 9:45 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. ET as part of a session on "School Meals for All: Exploring Global Initiatives and Lessons Learned from California and Maine." Lorrene Ritchie presents a poster on July 23, 10:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. ET titled "Transition to Freshly-Prepared School Meals: Impacts on Meal Appeal, Student Participation, Intake, Food and Packaging Waste & School Finances;" the poster is co-authored by Celeste Felix and Danielle Lee from NPI, Hannah Thompson, Kristine Madsen and Caroline Nguyen from the University of California, Berkeley, and Laura Vollmer from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. Miranda Westfall presents a poster on July 23, 10:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. ET titled "Assessments of Practices to Support Nutrition and Physical Activity at CA SNAP-Ed Eligible Schools Reveal Inequities;" the poster is co-authored by Janice Kao, Carolyn Rider, Sridharshi Hewawitharana, Amanda Linares, and Gail Woodward-Lopez from NPI.
Summer Cortez joined the Nutrition Policy Institute at the University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources on April 26, 2023 as a project policy analyst. She will serve as the new CalFresh Healthy Living Evaluation Unit manager, to support evaluation of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - Education in partnership with the California Department of Public Health and local health departments. Summer received a master's degree in community development from UC Davis, where she focused her studies on strategies to enhance regional food system resilience in the face of disasters. Her professional background is in program management, and she has spent the last seven years leading community education projects in land stewardship, nutrition and food literacy.