Participants of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program often report high prices and lack of access to high-quality, affordable produce as a leading barrier to increasing their fruit and vegetable consumption. Researchers at the University of California Nutrition Policy Institute compared the costs of the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables for a household when shopping at farmers' markets compared to supermarkets. Using data from eleven farmers' markets and seven supermarkets across California, they found that farmers' market prices tended to be lower than supermarkets for organic fruits and vegetables and higher than supermarkets for conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, though few differences were statistically significant. A family of three may pay $16.34 less on average if shopping at the farmers market instead of the supermarket for organic produce to meet their weekly recommended intake per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. If purchasing a mixture of conventional and organic produce, it may cost $3.68 more on average to shop at the farmers' market. These findings are important to inform nutrition incentive programs such as Market Match which offer SNAP (CalFresh in California) participants financial incentives to use their benefits at participating farmers' markets. The study was published in the journal Nutrients by NPI researchers Sridharshi Hewawitharana, Karen Webb, Ron Strochlic, and Wendi Gosliner.
Schools are an ideal setting to improve child nutrition and food security and are critical environments in which to implement policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) public health interventions. Federal mandates for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education, known as CalFresh Healthy Living in California, require PSE interventions for obesity prevention efforts combined with direct and indirect education interventions. Researchers at the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Nutrition Policy Institute developed a new method to evaluate the ‘dose' score of complex and multicomponent SNAP-Ed interventions in schools, which can then be linked to student health outcomes. The method also proposes how to calculate dose scores for different intervention categories, including direct education, PSE, garden-based interventions, and physical education. This novel evaluation method can be used in future SNAP-Ed evaluations to inform practitioners and policymakers about the most promising school-based public health interventions to support children's health. The proposed method was published in the American Journal of Evaluation. Study authors include researchers from the NPI CalFresh Healthy Living evaluation team, Sridharshi Hewawitharana, Janice Kao, Carolyn Rider, Evan Talmage, Karen Webb, Wendi Gosliner, and Gail Woodward-Lopez, and Sadie Costello from UC Berkeley.
Feeding America published a new resource, the Nutrition in Food Banking Toolkit, aimed to guide the charitable food sector to better meet the nutritional and cultural food needs of people they serve. The toolkit, released on March 23, 2021, was developed by Feeding America's Nutritious Food Revisioning Task Force, made up of more than a dozen food banks and national organization staff, with input and expertise from partnering organizations. This first edition of the Nutrition in Food Banking Toolkit is composed of three main sections, each focused on a different aspect of the charitable food system. Healthy Eating Research (HER) Nutrition Guidelines for the Charitable Food System provides recommendations to improve the quality of food in food banks and food pantries in order to increase access to healthier food for food-insecure households. Applying an Intercultural Competence Lens provides insights and recommendations for developing nutrition-related cultural competence at the organizational, partner, and individual levels. Role of Food Bank Nutrition Policies: A Guide to Action provides food banks with strategies to achieve nutrition policies that lead to a more nutritious food supply. The final section on food bank nutrition policies was developed by University of California (UC) Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) researcher Karen Webb and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources advisor Laura Vollmer. This section was adapted from NPI's Guide to Drafting a Food Bank Nutrition Policy, which was created for the online course Developing a Food Bank Nutrition Policy. Toolkit partners include Healthy Eating Research (HER); the CDC's Nutrition and Obesity Policy Research and Evaluation Network; UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity; UC NPI; MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger; Partnership for a Healthier America; and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The toolkit is available online.
Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) researchers published a new study suggesting childhood obesity prevention programs are not associated with unhealthy dieting in children and may in fact improve children's satisfaction with their body weight. The study was published in Pediatric Obesity by lead author Colleen Plimier from the University of California (UC), Berkeley School of Public Health, along with co-authors Sridharshi Hewawitharana, Karen Webb, Lauren Au, and Lorrene Ritchie from NPI, and Dianne Neumark‐Sztainer from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. Study data were from 130 communities and over 5,000 children and their families from across the United States as part of the Healthy Communities Study, a six-year observational study funded by the National Institutes of Health.