- Author: Brianna Aguayo Villalon
- Editor: suzanne rauzon
- Editor: Ron Strochlic
The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—known as SNAP nationally and CalFresh in California—provides food benefits to over 22 million low-income families in the US to supplement their grocery budget. New Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) research demonstrates that sending encouraging text messages to SNAP participants helps promote nutrition resources and stimulate positive feelings about the program. NPI researchers collaborated with the University of California, San Diego, Center for Community Health, to partner with the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency to send 5 monthly behavioral science-informed nutrition text messages to approximately 170,000 CalFresh participants. The text messages were sent in English and Spanish and provided information about the benefits of buying and consuming California-grown fruits and vegetables. Each text-message included a link to a website which provided information about selecting, storing, and preparing fruits and vegetables, and budget-friendly recipes. Results highlighted that participants gained better knowledge on these subjects, as well as feeling good about participating in CalFresh and appreciating the program's efforts to help participants eat healthfully. Survey results demonstrated that 90% of respondents appreciated the text-messages. This research brief demonstrates that further communication efforts through text-messages from SNAP agencies can help program participants eat more healthfully and improve their views on SNAP. The brief was developed by NPI researchers Celeste Felix, Ron Strochlic and Wendi Gosliner and Sena Karvas from the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health.
A new research brief developed by the Nutrition Policy Institute outlines the results and implications of the 2023 study: “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education reductions during COVID-19 may have exacerbated health inequities.” The study examined changes in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education programming by California's local health departments during the COVID-19 pandemic. 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. NPI researchers documented dramatic reductions in the reach and dose of local health department SNAP-Ed programming 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. The peer-reviewed study was authored by NPI researchers Gail Woodward-Lopez, Erin Esaryk, Sridharshi Hewawitharana, Janice Kao, Evan Talmage and Carolyn Rider. The research brief was created by NPI's CalFresh Healthy Living Evaluation Unit, including: Carolyn Rider, Miranda Westfall, Reka Vasicsek and Summer Cortez.
A recent research brief from the Nutrition Policy Institute illuminates the experiences of participants newly enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children—commonly known as WIC. The brief, based on the 2021 Multi-State WIC Participant Satisfaction Survey, shares experiences of 26,642 WIC participants surveyed across 12 WIC state agencies, focused on the impacts of temporary changes to the WIC food package during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the 7,831 participants that responded to the open-ended question asking them to share any feedback about their WIC experience, comments were generally positive (43%), with only 7% reporting difficulty finding WIC foods. However, the study revealed that participants new to WIC, less than one year into the program, encountered more challenges shopping for WIC foods compared to those with longer enrollment periods. One participant expressed, “I still can't find some products that WIC is providing, it is very complicated to find products.” New participants often faced difficulties at store checkouts, citing confusion with the WIC card and App. One participant mentioned, "It's confusing how to use the WIC card at different stores, seems you have to learn by trial and error which can be embarrassing." Participants on WIC for varying durations requested flexibility in substituting whole fruits and vegetables in place of jarred infant foods and juice. One participant said, “I would like more money for fruit and veggies and maybe take away the juice option. My pediatrician and the American Academy of Pediatrics agrees.” The NPI research suggests providing enhanced support for new WIC participants, focusing on understanding WIC food packages and how to properly use the WIC App to shop for and identify WIC-approved foods, and considering expanded options for whole fruits and vegetables in place of jarred infant foods and juice. The research was conducted in collaboration with Gabriel Underwood and Loan Kim from Pepperdine University, Danielle Lee and Lorrene Ritchie from NPI, and Christina Chauvenet from the National WIC Association.
Nutrition Policy Institute collaborated with Impact Justice, ChangeLab Solutions and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to launch a first-in-the-nation ‘Farm to Corrections' Harvest of the Month pilot project bringing California-grown produce to incarcerated populations in California in three prisons. Several California state policies support the project, including AB-822 which provides price incentives for state agencies to purchase California-grown produce and AB-778 which requires that 60% of state agency's produce is purchased from within the state. The project, led by NPI's Wendi Gosliner, Ron Strochlic and Carolyn Chelius, produced a report summarizing the opportunities and challenges in bringing more California-grown produce to the state's prison system, a second report of promising farm-to-corrections practices from across the United States, as well as several trauma-informed nutrition education workshops across the state for formerly incarcerated individuals. The project was featured in several media outlets, including an article by FarmProgress on October 6, 2023, “'Farm to corrections' project feeds prisoners” and the My Ag Life podcast episode on October 6, 2023, 'Farm to Corrections' Project Benefits Incarcerated Individuals, Growers. The podcast recording featuring Carolyn's interview begins at 10:23. The article was also featured in the University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources News & Events on September 28, 2023, “‘Farm to corrections' project provides fresh produce to people in prison, boosts California growers.”
New research highlights the need for increased funding in the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program to ensure family childcare home providers can offer nutritious meals and snacks to young children.CACFP serves nutritious meals and snacks to over 4.2 million children in childcare, annually. Family childcare home providers in CACFP receive reimbursements —Tier 1 or Tier 2 rates—based on their income or being in a low-income community. Tiering was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 and resumed on June 30, 2023. Nutrition Policy Institute researchers, in collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley, CACFP Roundtable, and the California Department of Social Services, conducted interviews with Tier 1 and Tier 2 providers in California to understand the impact of tiering. Interviews revealed that CACFP supports families by ensuring children receive nutritious meals and reducing their financial burdens. Providers from both tiers advocated for eliminating tiered reimbursements and increasing rates to balance rising food costs and ensure fair compensation. Due to lower reimbursements coupled with inflation-driven increases in food, labor, and supply costs, providers are considering offering fewer meals, leaving CACFP or increasing fees for parents. The proposed Child Care Nutrition Enhancement Act offers potential solutions, seeking to eliminate tiered reimbursements, provide a $0.10 reimbursement increase tied to inflation, and enable providers to claim reimbursement for their children's meals when served with other children in their care. NPI researcher Celeste Felix and collaborators will present preliminary study findings at the Annual CACFP Conference on October 19 at 2:45 p.m. This work was supported by Healthy Eating Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.