Findings from a recent study indicate that most California schools are providing drinking water that meets current safety standards. However, the authors suggest that continued attention and investments are needed to assure tap water safety in all schools. Researchers partnered with 83 schools from a representative sample of 240 California public schools to collect and analyze tap water samples for five common drinking water contaminants: arsenic, nitrate, hexavalent chromium, copper and lead. The first three may occur naturally in groundwater but can also come from agricultural or industrial activities. Lead and copper are heavy metals that may be found in building plumbing and can be present in tap water under certain conditions. No tap water samples violated the California state action level for arsenic or nitrate, two contaminants that should be brought to levels at or below state standards by water utility treatment of their sourcewater. Four percent of schools had at least one sample that exceeded California's proposed 10 parts per billion action level for hexavalent chromium. Four percent of schools exceeded the 1300 ppb state action level for copper. A notable feature of the study was its detailed analysis of lead in tap water. Four percent of study schools had at least one first-draw tap water sample that exceeded the 15 ppb state action level for lead, 18% exceeded the US Food and Drug Administration's bottled water standard of 5 ppb, and 75% exceeded the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation of 1 ppb. Researchers found that turning on the affected taps to “flush” pipes for 45 seconds reduced observed lead concentrations above 15, 5, and 1 ppb to 2%, 10%, and 33% of schools, respectively. These findings provide valuable information for mitigating the presence of lead in tap water. The study, “A Comprehensive Examination of the Contaminants in Drinking Water in Public Schools in California, 2017-2022”, was published online on September 4, 2023 in the journal Public Health Reports. It was conducted by researchers from the University of California's Nutrition Policy Institute, Stanford University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute.
The Nutrition Policy Institute at the University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources is seeking to hire two Assistant or Associate Project Scientists to support our work to evaluate California's universal school meals program. The positions will conduct literature reviews and develop research questions, hypotheses and study methods; develop participant recruitment and retention protocols and protocols for IRB submission; and design and conduct collaborative research and evaluation projects, including conducting quantitative and qualitative analysis. They will facilitate state and national interactions between researchers, policymakers, and diverse community groups. The positions will write grants, research reports and peer-reviewed publications and develop science-based policy and environmental solutions to lifestyle-related health problems for diverse populations. The salaries are $71,500 to $91,000 or $87,000 to $107,600 annually. The positions are based at our Oakland, California office and each is a one-year renewable term appointment with possible extension. More information about the positions and how to apply is available online. Application packets must be received by October 10, 2023 to ensure full consideration. The University of California is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
Good nutrition, and improved health, attendance, academics, and school climate are some of the benefits when schools offer meals at no charge to all students. California and Maine, followed by six other states, have already enacted legislation to provide daily meals at school to all K-12 public school students, at no charge regardless of family income level. According to tracking by the Food Research and Action Center, over half of the remaining states are working to pass School Meals for All legislation. Additionally, a bill has been offered at the federal level. Researchers at the Nutrition Policy Institute, Arizona State University, the University of Connecticut, Boise State University and Merrimack College developed a summary of the evidence on the benefits of universal school meal programs. The researchers who developed the synopsis work collaboratively on evaluations of new state School Meals for All programs.
Nearly 40% of community college students experience food insecurity and may skip meals because they can't afford to eat. The Nutrition Policy Institute, along with the University of California and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, endorsed the Food for Thought Act, bicameral legislation that would bring free meal programs to community college campuses and minority serving institutions—helping address food insecurity for students at those institutions. The Food for Thought Act will also provide funding to conduct campus outreach and provide information to participating students on eligibility for federal food assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and collect data on food insecurity on campuses to expand anti-hunger programming. Grant funding can also be used to update much needed food infrastructure on campus that students can use and build food pantries and community gardens on campus. The Food For Thought Act was introduced by Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and joined by Representative Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), and Senators Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) on July 20, 2023. The legislation has numerous co-sponsors in both the House and Senate and endorsements from experts in food insecurity and higher education.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children—also known as WIC—serves nearly half of children born in the US at some point before their fifth birthday. WIC participation enhances food security, diet quality, and developmental outcomes of children. The program offers a Cash Value Benefit to purchase fruits and vegetables, and additional benefits to purchase other specific healthy foods. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cash Value Benefits were increased from $9 for children and $11 for women to $25 for children, $44 for pregnant and postpartum women and $49 for breastfeeding women in June 2021. These higher amounts will end on September 30, 2023 without Congressional action. The Nutrition Policy Institute and Heluna Health's Public Health Foundation Enterprises-WIC Program released a policy brief highlighting research showing that the increased Cash Value Benefit improves participants' produce purchases, fruit and vegetable consumption, food security and satisfaction with WIC, and increased sales for farmers and local retailers. Extension of this benefit is critical as one-in-seven participants reported they were somewhat or very unlikely to continue on WIC if benefits decrease.