- Author: Katherine Lanca
- Editor: Danielle L. Lee
- Editor: Christina Hecht
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.
Researchers conducted a small community-based participatory research pilot of a drinking water intervention in the Navajo Nation and found that caregivers' reported knowledge of Diné (Navajo) traditions about water doubled and that the influence of Diné traditions on beverages they offered their children more than doubled. A Community Advisory Group met monthly to develop a curriculum for preschoolers and their caregivers that responded to caregiver knowledge gaps and centered Navajo language and traditions. Four monthly lessons were delivered by Early Childhood Education teachers through remote learning using multimedia materials to 21 households with children ages 2-5 enrolled in four Navajo Nation preschools. A majority (86%) of participating households had tap water at home, but only 38% stated they trusted their tap water's safety. While not statistically significant, children's average daily water consumption increased by 16% while consumption of sugary drinks decreased by 21%, with a reduction in energy intake from sugary drinks of 26 calories per day. The study was led by Brigham and Women's Hospital in partnership with Community Outreach and Patient Empowerment (COPE) of Navajo Nation and the Nutrition Policy Institute, University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources. The study was funded by Healthy Eating Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (grant no. 77234). To learn more, read the research brief, “Water is K'é: A Community-Based Intervention to Increase Healthy Beverage Consumption by Navajo Preschool Children.”
California's San Joaquin Valley is home to many low-income Latino agricultural-worker families who disproportionately experience food insecurity and diet-related diseases. Yet free school meal participation is surprisingly low. Through the existing alliance between the Nutrition Policy Institute, Stanford Medicine's Partnerships for Research in Child Health, Cultiva La Salud, and the Dolores Huerta Foundation, the Stanford University Office of Community Engagement will fund a new project to co-create culturally and linguistically relevant materials for Spanish-speaking families, utilizing their feedback, that explain the history of school meals, United States Department of Agriculture nutrition requirements, and how families can advocate for school meal improvements that fit within the constraints of the school nutrition programs. The funding will also support dissemination of report findings to the USDA and other key nutrition advocacy groups. The 8-month project started in January 2023, and includes NPI's senior policy advisor Christina Hecht and policy director Ken Hecht. Learn more about their project online, and visit the NPI website to learn more about our work to evaluate school meals for all in California and other states.
Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB), instead of plain water, is associated with poorer health outcomes and a higher risk of developing diet-related chronic diseases. However, public distrust of the local water supply may deter the intake of plain drinking water. A recent study investigated the perceptions of tap and bottled water safety, as well as plain water and SSB intake of participants following reports on drinking water quality violations in the US, specifically the Flint water crisis. Researchers used survey data on 4,041 American adults in 2018. They found that 1 in 7 adults did not think their tap water at home was safe to drink, 2 in 5 adults thought bottled water was safer than tap water, and 1 in 4 adults did not like the taste of their local tap water. Those with negative perceptions of tap water safety and taste reported low tap water intake and were more likely to consume bottled water. The study also identified an association between perceiving bottled water as safer than tap water and a higher SSB intake. This research provides guidance for effective interventions to promote water consumption and address perceptions of water safety. The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health Promotion by the following researchers: Sohyun Park, Stephen Onufrak, and Heidi Blanck of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Angie Cradock of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Anisha Patel of Stanford University, and Christina Hecht of the Nutrition Policy Institute.
- Author: Danielle L. Lee
- Editor: Lorrene Ritchie
The latest issue of Stanford Medicine Magazine showcases Nutrition Policy Institute's collaborative research with pediatrician Anisha Patel from Stanford Medicine, Department of Pediatrics to improve access to drinking water for school children. The article, titled "Gulp: With drinking water out of reach for many kids, a pediatrician partners with schools to get them access,” chronicles the development of a rich partnership between Patel, community advocates, and NPI's senior policy adviser Christina Hecht, policy director Ken Hecht, as well as a collaborative National Institutes of Health-funded research project conducted by Patel and Nutrition Policy Institute, the Water First project. The Stanford Medicine Magazine article was published online on January 23, 2023.