Pesticides, phthalates, bisphenol-A, commonly known as BPA, and plasticizers are chemicals commonly used in the food supply chain that can have negative health consequences for people regularly exposed to them. A recent study found that school meals had low levels of phthalates and no detectable levels of BPA. However, the study also found that pre-packaged school meals may have high levels of the plasticizer Diethylhexyl adipate, commonly known as DEHA and an often-used substitute for BPA. While these chemical levels are similar to those found in many other foods children typically consume, it is concerning given the limited research on the health impact of DEHA, especially on children who are more vulnerable to the negative health impacts of certain chemicals. Although pesticides were detected in over half of the school meal produce items and a quarter of entrées sampled, nearly all were below the average levels detected by the US Department of Agriculture's Pesticide Data Program. Researchers analyzed the presence of these chemicals in 50 school meal samples made on-site from scratch or pre-packaged and reheated, which were collected between 2019 to 2021 in eight New England schools serving kindergarten through eighth-grade students. The study authors recommend additional studies to investigate the impact of DEHA on children's health and pesticides in school foods, additional funding for schools to prepare food on-site to reduce students' exposure to plasticizers, and for schools to minimize packaging for meals made on-site with plastic. Study results were published in the journal Environmental Research by Juliana Cohen, Scott Richardson, William March and Russ Hauser from Merrimack College and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Wendi Gosliner from the Nutrition Policy Institute at the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. This study was funded by a grant from the Shah Family Foundation.
Eligible working families with low income that have children can receive the earned income tax credit, commonly known as the EITC, annually in the form of a lump-sum federal tax refund averaging about $2,500. Little was known about how families spend their EITC funds and the mechanisms for how this credit supports improved health outcomes. University of California researchers conducted a large survey of nearly 250 California families that received the EITC in 2020-2021. Families spent their refunds on basic needs. Half of the families surveyed reported spending their EITC refund on bills, debt or housing, over a third reported spending it on transportation and only 3% reported spending it on healthcare costs. Family recipients that were thirty years old and older were more likely to spend their EITC refund on bills and paying down debt than younger households. Researchers suggested the EITC may support improved healthy by providing families with more money to spend on nutrition and healthcare and may lower family stress by generally increasing household resources. Findings were published in the journal BMC Public Health by Rita Hamad and Kaitlyn Jackson from the University of California, San Francisco, Joseph Yeb from Tufts University, Wendi Gosliner from the Nutrition Policy Institute at the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Lia Fernald from UC Berkeley. This project is part of the Assessing California Communities' Experiences with Safety Net Supports (ACCESS) study which was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Tipping Point Foundation, the UC Office of the President, and the Berkeley Population Center at UC Berkeley.
Nutrition Policy Institute's senior researcher Wendi Gosliner was recently appointed as a workgroup member to the National Institutes of Health, Agriculture and Diet: Value Added for Nutrition, Translation and Adaptation in a Global Ecology, also known as the ADVANTAGE Project. The ADVANTAGE project is an effort to better understand the intersection of food systems, diet, nutrition, and health in a changing environment by addressing how the current realities of climate/environmental change are affecting dietary choices, patterns, and relevant aspects of the food system, as well as implications for specific public health outcomes of interest. This effort seeks to determine how an ecological approach can be applied to assess the nature and impact of these relationships and how to best translate the evidence generated to promote health and prevent disease. Gosliner is a member of the ADVANTAGE Working Group 5, tasked to focus on translation and implementation to support context-specific, equitable, safe and efficacious interventions, dietary guidance and standards of care in a changing environment. Working Group 5 conducted a virtual workshop on Friday, June 12, 2023, where Gosliner and collaborator Jenn Otten from the University of Washington hosted a talk and discussion titled “A Conversation about Dissemination and Translation.” The recording from their presentation is available online and their talk begins at 1:46:30.
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.
Virtually all San Diego County CalFresh participants (known as SNAP nationwide) have been receiving monthly text messages in multiple languages encouraging them to eat more fruits and vegetables and directing them to a dedicated multilingual website with more information. The County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency may be the first SNAP administering agency in the US to use text messages to share nutrition information and promote a healthy diet. This effort began in 2020 in partnership with the University of California, Nutrition Policy Institute and the UC San Diego Center for Community Health. Building on previous survey results, UC researchers conducted focus groups in English and Spanish with text message recipients to elicit their experience of the messages. CalFresh participants reported overwhelmingly positive perceptions of the effort, including increased fruit and vegetable intake, trying unfamiliar produce items, improved perceptions of CalFresh, and feelings that the agency cares about their health and well-being. Participants want the effort to continue with more frequent messages. Text messaging participants is a relatively low-cost approach that SNAP agencies can use to encourage diet improvement, optimization of food dollars, and to enhance perceptions of and experiences with SNAP. Focus group results were published in the journal Nutrients by Celeste Felix, Ron Strochlic, and Wendi Gosliner from the Nutrition Policy Institute, Blanca Melendrez and Shanna Wright from the UC San Diego Center for Community Health, and Hao Teng from Teachers College, Colombia University.