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.
A recent study examined changes in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education programming by California's local health departments during the COVID-19 pandemic. Local health department SNAP-Ed programs comprise California's largest obesity prevention program. In March 2020, when schools and other institutions closed their doors in response to the COVID-19 emergency, the impact on public health programs like SNAP-Ed was immediate and large. As the pandemic continued, California's local health departments reported numerous challenges, including the diversion of staff, funding, and other resources from programs like SNAP-Ed to emergency response. Nutrition Policy Institute researchers measured the changes in local health department SNAP-Ed programming and documented dramatic reductions in reach and dose during the early stages of the pandemic. Reductions disproportionately impacted disadvantaged communities, including those with higher poverty, higher proportions of Black and Latino residents, and less healthy neighborhood conditions. Disproportionately reduced access to important health programs may have worsened health disparities in diet and physical activity-related chronic diseases, as well as increasing susceptibility to COVID-19. This study demonstrates the importance of an equity-centered approach to promoting healthy eating and active living, even—or perhaps especially—during public health emergencies. Study results were published in the journal SSM-Population Health by Gail Woodward-Lopez, Erin Esaryk, Sridharshi Hewawitharana, Janice Kao, Evan Talmage, and Carolyn Rider of NPI with funding from the USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education.
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.
A new research brief developed by the Nutrition Policy Institute details findings from an evaluation of the California Nutrition Incentive Program, a program that provides CalFresh shoppers with a dollar-for-dollar match when purchasing California-grown produce at participating farmers markets and other retail outlets. In this evaluation, NPI researchers conducted surveys and interviews with a convenience sample of CalFresh shoppers and food store managers. Overall, CalFresh shoppers reported overwhelmingly positive experiences using CNIP and store managers also found the program to be beneficial. While the results showed that CNIP utilization did not have statistically significant impacts on quantitative measures of shoppers' produce intake or food security, shoppers did report that CNIP influenced the kinds of fruits and vegetables they bought and also attributed being able to buy more fruits and vegetables to this program. CalFresh shoppers wanted CNIP to continue and supported it expanding to other retail outlets.