- Author: Katherine Lanca
- Editor: Danielle L. Lee
- Editor: Lorrene Ritchie
Healthy default beverage laws require restaurants to list healthier beverages—such as water or unflavored milk as opposed to sugary drinks—as the default option for children's meals. These laws intend to address unhealthy beverage consumption by young children, directing consumers toward healthier beverage choices at no additional cost. New research evaluates the adherence of children's meals to healthy default beverage laws from online restaurant meal ordering platforms available in Los Angeles, Baltimore, and New York City. Among over 100 of the top-grossing restaurant chains sampled, fewer than 3% of online children meal orders in any jurisdiction adhered to the strictest interpretation of the healthy default beverage laws. Varying adherence to healthy default beverage laws by jurisdiction was found and may be attributable to differing definitions of a healthy beverage. For example, California's law considers non-flavored milk and water as healthy default beverage options, while Baltimore and New York laws also allow 100% juice and flavored milk. Policy can be optimized by clearly defining healthy beverages, bundled children's meals, and what constitutes adherence to the law for online ordering platforms. The study, published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, was conducted by Daniel Zaltz and Sara Benjamin-Neelson of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Danielle Lee, Gail Woodward-Lopez, and Lorrene Ritchie of the Nutrition Policy Institute, and Sara Bleich of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health with partial support from a grant from the National Institutes of Health (no. T32DK062707).
- Author: Danielle L. Lee
- Editor: Lorrene Ritchie
Healthy Eating Research (HER), a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, conducted a rapid Health Impact Assessment (HIA) to understand how improving school nutrition standards could impact the nutritional quality of school meals, school meal participation, student dietary consumption, students' health and wellbeing, and academic performance. The HIA features several studies conducted by the Nutrition Policy Institute, including a study showing the effectiveness of removing flavored milk from schools in reducing added sugar intake without compromising the intake of milk-related nutrients. Another showed that schools successfully implemented the school meal nutrition standards per the 2010 Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act. It also features a study showing that limiting competitive foods offered in California schools didn't lead to significant revenue loss and improved schools adherence to nutrition standards. Overall, the HIA evidence reviewed suggests that aligning school meal nutrition standards with the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans could have significant positive implications for child nutrition and health and is likely to increase student participation in school meal programs, improve food security, increase school food service revenue, and improve academic performance.
- Author: Danielle L. Lee
- Contributor: Gail Woodward-Lopez
A new study from University of California researchers suggests that most fast food restaurants in low-income neighborhoods in California are not offering beverages online in a way that is consistent with the state's healthy beverage law for children's meals sold on the restaurant's website and popular online ordering platforms like DoorDash, GrubHub, and UberEats. California's Healthy-By-Default Beverage law requires restaurants to offer only plain or sparkling water with no added sweeteners, unflavored milk or unflavored non-dairy milk as the default beverage in children's meals. The law also requires that menus, menu boards and advertisements for children's meals include only approved default options. Researchers found that less than six percent of the observations they made on the online ordering platforms of 245 fast food restaurants across low-income California neighborhoods were offering children's meal beverages that were consistent with the Healthy-By-Default Beverage law in its most restrictive interpretation. This is cause for concern as online ordering platforms are gaining popularity. The study was published online in the journal Public Health Nutrition by Nutrition Policy Institute researchers Hannah Thompson, Anna Martin, Ron Strochlic, Sonali Singh, and Gail Woodward Lopez as part of the NPI CalFresh Healthy Living evaluation.
In the United States, over 25 million people work and learn at colleges and universities, consuming an untold number of meals, snacks, and beverages while on campus. Unlike in K-12 schools, higher education institutions are not governed by federal policies to ensure that foods and beverages sold on campus meet minimum nutrition standards. While many universities participate in voluntary campus wellness initiatives, only one university–the University of California (UC), Berkeley–has officially adopted a comprehensive, campus-wide nutrition policy, the Food and Beverage Choices (FBC) Policy. Researchers at the UC Nutrition Policy Institute and UC Berkeley collaborated with the FBC policy implementation team to publish a case report in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, presenting detailed information on the development, establishment, implementation and evaluation of the FBC policy. The report includes discussion of the challenges and barriers encountered during policy implementation and offers valuable insight for other universities seeking to develop and implement their own nutrition policies. The report was developed by Zachary Rickrode-Fernandez of Center for Environmental Health and UC Berkeley, Janice Kao of the UC Nutrition Policy Institute, and Mary Lesser and Kim Guess of UC Berkeley.
California's 2010 Healthy Beverages in Child Care Act (AB2084) specifies that only unflavored low-fat milk or nonfat milk be served to children aged 2 years or older, allows no more than 1 daily serving of 100% juice, prohibits beverages with added sweeteners, and requires that safe drinking water be readily accessible throughout the day in all licensed California (CA) child care centers and family child care homes. A state-wide survey of CA child care providers conducted in 2016 by the University of California, Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) suggested that less than half (45%) of providers fully adhered to the beverage policy. Researchers at NPI partnered with the UCSF School of Nursing, California Childcare Health Program and UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) Cooperative Extension (CE), with support from a UC ANR grant, to develop a brief online training in English and Spanish for providers to increase adherence with the policy. Researchers evaluated the online training, 'Healthy Beverages in Early Care and Education', combined with six months of ongoing technical assistance from CE nutrition educators. The study enrolled 65 licensed child care providers in California. Results suggest that the online training can improve providers' awareness of the policy and knowledge of healthy beverage practices; however, it may not improve providers' adherence to the policy. Further, it suggests that additional technical assistance from CE nutrition educators beyond 6-months may be required to further increase awareness, knowledge, and policy adherence. Results from the study were published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior on June 1, 2021. The study was conducted by NPI researchers Danielle Lee, Kaela Plank, Hannah Thompson, Christina Hecht and Lorrene Ritchie in collaboration with Marisa Neelon from UC ANR, Karina Díaz Rios from UC Merced, and Abbey Alkon from the UCSF School of Nursing. The training is available online for free in English and Spanish for California child care providers, and for $15 for providers located outside of California.