Nutrition Policy Institute researchers will present at the American Public Health Association 2023 Annual Meeting & Expo . The conference brings in over 1,000 sessions, centered on creating a healthier nation by working together to overcome social and ethical challenges. NPI researchers Wendi Gosliner, Lorrene Ritchie, Christina Hecht, Kenneth Hecht and Monica Zuercher co-author two poster sessions. The first is presented by Leah Chapman from Merrimack College titled, “Universal free school meals during the pandemic: A qualitative analysis of parent opinions from California and Maine” on November 13 from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. The second is presented by Deborah Olarte from Merrimack College on November 13 from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. titled, “School food authorities' perceptions of the barriers to student participation in universal school meals during the 2021-2022 school year: A mixed-methods study.” The conference will take place in Atlanta, Georgia from November 12-15 with live virtual options for attendees.
Nutrition Policy Institute researchers were awarded a $199,786 grant from the California Collaborative for Pandemic Recovery and Readiness Research Program, also known as CPR3. The grant funds a collaborative project with NPI principal investigator Lorrene Ritchie, co-principal investigator Susana Matias from the University of California, Berkeley and the CACFP Roundtable. The project, “Child and Adult Care Food Program: Impacts of COVID-19 Changes to Meal and Snack Reimbursement Rates on Family Childcare Home Providers, Children and Families – Phase 2”, builds on a current project to understand the impact of COVID-19 changes to CACFP reimbursement rates for family child care homes on CACFP participation, food quality, and food security. The one-year project began on July 1, 2023 and includes Kassandra Bacon as project manager, Celeste Felix as data analyst, Reka Vasicsek as research coordinator, Meirong Liao as Administrative Coordinator, Hannah Thompson as statistical consultant, and Ken Hecht as policy advisor. A goal of the CPR3 Program is to generate policy-relevant evidence to improve the health and well-being of California residents in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CPR3 Program is funded by the California Department of Public Health. California Department of Public Health will not be involved in study design, data collection, data analysis and interpretation, manuscript development, or the decision to publish.
The University of California Research Consortium on Beverages and Health, a group of faculty from every UC campus coordinated by the Nutrition Policy Institute, has released two new resources to support reducing consumption of sugary drinks. The first is a factsheet, University Beverage Pouring Rights Contracts – And Alternatives, which aims to educate university stakeholders about beverage “pouring rights” contracts that allow a beverage company—usually PepsiCo or Coca-Cola—nearly exclusive rights to market and sell its products throughout the university's campus and during events. The factsheet outlines the variety of stipulations present in these contracts and suggests alternative strategies for healthier, more up-to-date beverage procurement. The second resource is a living document, an Interactive Table of Policy Strategies to Reduce Consumption of Sugary Drinks (US – Proposed and Enacted). The table portrays the landscape of federal and tribal, state, city, workplace and educational institution policies in use in the US to reduce consumption of sugary drinks: excise taxes on sugary drink distributors, bans or restrictions on sugary drink sales or service, and other policies such as restrictions on marketing, requirements for labeling, or regulation of vending machine contents. It includes links to the policy language to provide sample language for entities that are considering developing new policy. Consortium members Ken Hecht from NPI, Kristine Madsen from UC Berkeley and Jennifer Falbe from UC Davis were interviewed about these topics in a July 10, 2023 story in The Daily Californian, “A unique responsibility': Campaigns work to limit soda consumption, stop UC pouring rights contracts.”
According to a study conducted by the Nutrition Policy Institute at the University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources, parents of K-12 students in California overwhelmingly value the benefits of school meals, such as saving families money and time, reducing family stress, and improving academic performance. Researchers interviewed a representative sample of 1,110 California parents of children in public or charter schools, and 82% said school meals helped them save money, while 80% said it helped them save time. However, the interviews also revealed some of the challenges faced by school meal programs, including repetitive menus and students not liking what was served. Parents suggested simplifying the meal application process and providing information in written formats to help them overcome some barriers to participation. Study findings are presented in a research brief, developed by NPI as part of their formative evaluation of California's Universal School Meals. California's new program provides free breakfast and lunch to all K-12 students and is a model for other states. This study aims to continue to inform and help optimize the program.
Grab-and-go meals replaced cafeteria lunch lines during COVID-19 campus closures to ensure that students have reliable access to food. To understand strategies that can improve participation in school meal programs, a study during COVID-19 documented how parents perceived the quality, healthfulness, and benefits of the grab-and-go school meals. Parents from eight school districts in the San Joaquin Valley, California, a region of predominantly Latino farm worker communities, participated in the study. Using a predetermined protocol, parents photographed all meal items provided in their students' school meals for a full week. They then participated in focus groups and group discussions to describe their perceptions of the school meals. Parents expressed appreciation for the convenience of grab-and-go meals, consistent access to food, and safety when collecting meals from school sites during the pandemic. Parents also reported concerns about unappealing meals, lack of variety in foods, and unsafe food packaging. The most common concern parents shared was about the healthfulness of packaged food items. Parents noted sugary, greasy, and fatty options, which did not meet their children's preference for fresh fruit and vegetables. Research findings suggest ways in which school meals can better appeal to both parents and their children to reduce food waste, support those who are food insecure, and increase school meal participation. Researchers of the publication in the Nutrients journal include Tatum Sohlberg, Emma Higuchi, Valeria Ordonez, Gabriela Escobar, Janine Bruce, and Anisha Patel from the Department of Pediatrics, Stanford University School of Medicine, Ashley De La Rosa and Cecelia Castro from Dolores Huerta Foundation, Genoveva Islas from Cultuva La Salud, and Ken Hecht and Christina Hecht from the Nutrition Policy Institute. This study was supported by funding from No Kid Hungry, Stanford Pediatrics Residency, and Stanford Children's Health Community Benefits Grant.