A recent study finds that comprehensive school-based Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education, also known as SNAP-Ed, interventions focused on improving wellness policies and increasing physical activity opportunities are associated with better student fitness. Researchers identified predominant combinations of school-based, physical activity-focused SNAP-Ed interventions and then looked at how they affected student fitness. Study data included over 442,000 fifth and seventh-grade students attending nearly 4,300 public schools in California communities with low-income in 2016-2017. Students in schools with SNAP-Ed interventions combining policy changes and improved physical activity opportunities had better cardiorespiratory fitness, as measured by VO2 max. On average, these students had 1.17 mL/kg/min greater VO2max than students at schools without interventions. They also had greater VO2 max compared to students in schools with any other type of intervention combination. This study suggests that focusing on both wellness policy changes and increased physical activity opportunities may have a synergistic effect and may warrant prioritization in SNAP-Ed program planning and implementation. The study, published in Preventive Medicine, was conducted by Nutrition Policy Institute researchers Sridharshi Hewawitharana, Gail Woodward-Lopez, Hannah Thompson, and Wendi Gosliner; Arizona State University researchers Punam Ohri-Vachaspati and Francesco Acciai; and California Department of Public Health researcher John Pugliese.
The article “Parent perceptions of changes in eating behavior during COVID-19 of school-aged children from Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) eligible households in California” was recently published in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports. The study examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the eating behaviors of school-aged children from households with low income eligible for the Supplemental Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) in California. Researchers assessed parent perceptions of changes in their children's eating habits throughout the pandemic, identifying shifts in dietary patterns that included a decreased use of school meals, and other changes observed by parents such as cooking at home, fast food, and fruits and vegetable consumption. The research underscores the need for tailored strategies in schools and at home to support the nutritional well-being of children during future public health emergency conditions. The study was led by Nutrition Policy Institute researchers Suzanne Rauzon, Sri Hewawitharana, Erin Esaryk, Hannah Thompson, Gail Woodward-Lopez, and California Department of Public Health co-authors Lauren Whetstone and Ingrid Cordon.
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.
Some US state laws require schools to provide certified physical education, or PE, teachers and a minimum amount of PE to support students in achieving 60 minutes of daily physical activity. However, adherence to these laws is low, especially in elementary schools. For example, in New York City elementary schools, adherence was only 4% in 2015. Researchers evaluated the effectiveness of PE Works, a multi-level intervention aimed at supporting elementary schools in implementing physical education (PE) in New York City. PE Works included three evidence-based interventions: providing certified PE teachers, training classroom teachers to lead PE, and implementing an audit and feedback system with coaching delivered by district-level staff. The study found that PE Works is most successful when school districts prioritize support for higher-need schools first, tailor support based on individual school needs, increase the importance of PE at the district and school level, build strong relationships between district and school staff, and provide ongoing coaching and involve parents in advocating for quality PE. The research suggests promising practices for scaling up similar interventions in school districts nationwide. Results were published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity by Hannah Thompson, Kristine Madsen and Maya Zamek from the University of California, Berkeley, Thomas McKenzie from San Diego State University and David Dzewaltowski from the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The research was funded by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, Grant 1K01HL151805.
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.