Posts Tagged: Lorrene Ritchie
University leaders, faculty and students from across the U.S. and around the world are working together to tackle a complex set of challenges that prevent millions of people from getting enough of the right foods. In March 2021, UC Davis, the UC Global Food Initiative and the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Nutrition Policy Institute, in partnership with the Hunger Solutions Institute at Auburn University, hosted a summit for members of Universities Fighting World Hunger, where more than 500 attendees from 22 countries sought solutions to the tragedy of world hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition that results in chronic diseases and obesity.
The 16th annual summit, held virtually for the second time, introduced a new way to address hunger by focusing on its connections to global climate change and the catastrophic COVID-19 pandemic.
Opening keynote speaker Bill Dietz, director of the Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness at George Washington University, called the multiple threats to human well-being a “syndemic” driven by political power, capitalism, social norms and structural racism.
He suggested triple-duty solutions to the syndemic. For example, for U.S. populations, increasing plant-based foods and reducing beef consumption leads to (1) healthier diets that reduce obesity, diabetes and cancer; (2) improves nutritional quality and food security; and (3) lowers greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and cattle production.
“I don't mean to say we eliminate beef,” Dietz said. “Beef can be healthy if grass fed and contains micronutrients. We need to reduce it. I don't pretend that's an easy lift. There is resistance at the highest levels of government. But we need to generate the political will to turn that around.”
Dietz recommended the development of local and regional food systems for food resilience, health, equity and environmental sustainability. Regional systems are more agile and not devoted to monoculture, such as that found in the U.S. Midwest where great swaths of land are managed exclusively for corn production.
“The question is not what we need to do, but how to do it,” Dietz said. “We need to act now. We need to build political will. We need to hold leaders accountable.”
A new Green Revolution
On the world stage, increasing access to food must address poverty, inequality, wars and politics, said Rattan Lal, distinguished professor of soil science at Ohio State University.
The projections that the earth will have 2 billion more residents by 2050 means there's a need for a new “Green Revolution,” Lal said. In the 1950s, fears that food production was lagging behind population growth were rampant. The fears were not realized due to the mid-century Green Revolution, in which research and technology boosted agricultural production worldwide with advances in variety selection, irrigation, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Yields rose exponentially.
“This miracle saved hundreds of millions from starvation,” Lal said. “Despite all that progress, there is still hunger.”
To meet food demand anticipated in 2050, the new Green Revolution must be different.
“Rather than input based, it must be natural resources based,” Lal said. “The strategy is to produce more food from less land, less water, less fertilizers and less energy.”
Managing agricultural land with regenerative principles – such as maintaining year-round soil cover, eliminating tillage and applying integrated nutrient management – leads to healthy, sustainable and productive soils that lock up carbon and minimize greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere.
“Something I hope to see protected in the new Farm Bill – the rights of soil,” Lal said. “Soil is a living entity. It has rights. We have a Clean Air Act, a Clean Water Act. It is time for a Healthy Soil Act. I hope it will be in 2022 or 2023. That involves policy translating science to action.”
The benefits of soil health are research-proven, but not yet widely implemented on farmland around the world, an example of a dichotomy shared by summit keynote speaker Jeffrey Sachs, an economist with the Center for Sustainable Development. He quoted the well-known observation of science fiction writer William Gibson, “The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed.”
“There are solutions. I call them pathways. They are not gimmicks,” Sachs said. “Our work is to build the public understanding and awareness of the importance of these pathways.”
Sachs encouraged summit attendees to advocate locally and at the state and federal levels to promote new food systems approaches.
“Write blogs, op-eds and suggestions. What can corporations commit to? What should governments commit to? What can the food industry commit to?” Sachs said. “A lot of agricultural policies promoted by large commercial interests neglect environmental objectives. What we need is a one-world approach to move beyond the narrow view of a powerful corporate lobby and move to ecosystem sustainability in agriculture, carbon storage, healthful diets and a culture of appreciation of agriculture and healthful food.”
A role for land grant universities
Lorrene Ritchie, director of UC's Nutrition Policy Institute, said she believes UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and other land grant institutions can help direct humanity along a pathway of human and planet health.
“We have nutrition programs, dairy and beef research, irrigation, pest control, production, and natural resources expertise, and are well positioned to work together,” Ritchie said. “As a nutrition researcher, I can bring expertise on human dietary needs, while others can identify the crops that are most environmentally sustainable in different ecosystems. How we can get the best nutrition with the smallest environmental impact is the key question to address.”
Consumers can also help protect the planet's health with information to make educated decisions about their food choices.
“I would like to see food labeling not only for nutrition, but also on the product's sustainability,” she said.
Impacts from food on the planet's health involve production, water use, transportation, packaging and other factors.
“It kind of makes you dizzy to think about balancing impacts to human health and planet health. At UC ANR, we have the expertise and we can contribute to making progress in California and beyond in that regard. Complex problems will require multiple solutions – the time to act is now,” Ritchie said.
At fast food and sit-down restaurants across California, kids' meals come with water or milk automatically. At least, that should be the case since state law requires restaurants to offer the healthy beverages by default to reduce the amount of sugary beverages served to children.
California Senate Bill 1192, authored by Sen. Bill Monning (D-San Luis Obispo), went into effect Jan. 6, 2019, but research by the UC Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) has found that implementation has not been universal and more can be done. The results, along with results from a similar study in Wilmington, Del., were published Aug. 20 on HealthyEatingResearch.org.
Before the law, 10% of menu boards observed by the researchers in California listed only the healthy beverages. Data collected after the law went into effect showed 66% of menu boards list the healthy default beverages. The researchers also collected data on the proportion of cashiers who verbally offered only healthy beverages with kids' meals when orders were placed. This happened only 5% of the time before the law was enacted, and dropped to 1% after.
“Parents look at menu boards and kids look at menu boards, but it is likely that what the cashier says also influences which drink they choose,” said Lorrene Ritchie, NPI director and UC Cooperative Extension nutrition specialist. Ritchie was the lead researcher on the California portion of the study. “In our data collection, we would order a kids' meal and wait for them to offer a drink. But mostly they said, ‘What drink do you want?' instead of ‘Do you want water or milk with that?'”
The law doesn't specify whether the cashier must offer the default beverages, but the spirit of the law suggests they should, as it would likely have a greater impact on the selections that children and parents make, Ritchie said.
According to Gail Woodward-Lopez, an NPI researcher and co-investigator on the study, most restaurant managers expressed support for the legislation, but didn't know much about it.
“NPI in partnership with the California Department of Public Health is working with some local health departments to provide training and materials to help restaurants comply with the letter and spirit of the law,” Woodward-Lopez said. “Our next step is to measure whether this health department support is effective.”
The dire need to direct children away from sugary sodas is clear. Empty calories from soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages is the No. 1 cause of obesity in children, Ritchie said. Obese children are at least twice as likely as non-obese children to become obese adults. Obese children and adults are at greater risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, certain cancers, asthma, low self-esteem, depression and other diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention names obesity as one of the conditions that increase risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
Many open questions remain, such as how drinks are portrayed on drive-thru signs and offered by drive-thru order takers. The COVID-19 pandemic has also altered the way Americans purchase food, with increased online ordering, delivery and drive-thru usage. In-store kiosk ordering is also growing in popularity.
“The role of default beverage policies in this context is important and not well understood,” Woodward-Lopez said.
Woodward-Lopez and Ritchie are working with colleagues around California and across the country to design follow-up studies of newer food technologies and beverage policies being passed elsewhere, to determine how government policies can protect children's health by steering them toward healthy beverage consumption.
The newly published research was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and by the California Department of Public Health with funding from the United States Department of Agriculture.
A study of the first University of California campus (UC San Francisco) to ban the sale of soda on campus has shown that employees reduced their consumption by nearly 50 percent. UCSF staff who took part in the study also reduced their waist measurements and weight.
“This was not a ban on the consumption of sugared beverages,” emphasized co-lead author Laura Schmidt, PhD, MSW, MPH, UCSF professor in the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies. “This was a ban on sales on sugary beverages in vending machines, break rooms and cafeterias...People could still bring them from home or buy them off campus.”
The study was published Oct. 28, 2019, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Internal Medicine.
California Assembly Member Richard Bloom (D–Santa Monica) noted the importance of workplace and governmental restrictions on soda sales while communities are prohibited from establishing local soda taxes for the next 12 years. In June 2018, the beverage industry strong-armed the California Legislature and Governor into enacting a “preemption” law that prohibits communities from passing local soda taxes.
“Workplace restrictions enable communities to take charge of their own health as we build momentum to pass AB 138, my bill that establishes a statewide soda tax that will fund prevention efforts. The bill will reduce soda consumption and generate positive health outcomes in impacted communities, where most needed, just like the UCSF effort,” Bloom said.
Lorrene Ritchie, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and director of the UC Nutrition Policy Institute, which conducts nutrition research to strengthen public policy, commented: “I am so impressed with both UCSF's sales ban and this very well-done study. Sodas are such a huge contributor to our obesity crisis that it is heartening to recognize a solution that any employer can adopt to help people improve their lives.”
Speaking of the UCSF study, lead author Elissa Epel, PhD, UCSF professor of psychiatry and director of the UCSF Aging, Metabolism, and Emotions Center, said: “This shows us that simply ending sales of sugary drinks in the workplace can have a meaningful effect on improving health in less than one year. There is a well-known pathway from soda to disease. High sugar intake leads to abdominal fat and insulin resistance, which are known risk factors for diabetes, heart disease, cancer and even dementia. Recent studies have also linked sugar intake to early mortality.”
Real progress has been made in tackling the epidemic of childhood obesity since the first California Childhood Obesity Conference was held 20 years ago, but there is more work to be done.
“Collectively, we have come so far,” UC Nutrition Policy Institute Director Lorrene Ritchie told an audience of 1,025 public health, nutrition education, research, and other professionals at the event in Anaheim in July 2019. NPI was one of six conference hosts.
In the last 20 years:
- Federal school meal standards have been revised so that the food children eat at school is healthier than the lunches they bring from home.
- Sugar-sweetened beverages are no longer available to students during the school day.
- Foods provided by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) are healthier and give mothers incentive to breast feed their babies.
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) education component is now linked to policy, systems and environmental changes.
- The Child and Adult Care Food Program now provides healthier meals and snacks to children in childcare centers and homes across the country.
The average quality of the diet of American children has improved, but the rate of childhood obesity in the United States is still too high.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18.5% of U.S. children and adolescents 2 to 19 years old are obese – about 13.7 million youth in all. The rates trend higher in minority communities, with 25.8% of Latinx youth and 22% of African American youth obese. Obesity is also more prevalent among children in families with low incomes.
Obesity, which is defined in children as a body mass index at or above the 95th percentile of CDC growth charts, is associated with poorer mental health status, reduced quality of life, and increased prevalence of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer.
The vice president of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, Glenda Humiston, pledged the organization's commitment to community health and wellbeing at the Childhood Obesity Conference. UC ANR is the umbrella organization of the Nutrition Policy Institute, UC CalFresh Healthy Living, UC Cooperative Extension, 4-H Youth Development, the UC Master Gardener Program and the California Naturalist Program, among others.
“Going forward, solutions to the obesity epidemic are multidisciplinary,” Humiston said. “NPI does world class work in conducting research to influence nutrition policy. We need to harness 4-H. Master Gardeners are increasingly focusing on edible gardens. CalNat is getting people out into nature. We are finding synergies in community wellness.”
Humiston has dedicated UC ANR resources to finding and implementing solutions to the obesity crisis.
“I'm looking forward to working with all of you – public and private organizations – to design a way to move forward,” she said.
The opening keynote presentation at the conference featured Patricia Crawford, NPI's Senior Director of Research emeritus, a pioneer in addressing the growing problem of childhood obesity during her long career. Beginning in the 1970s, she recognized that childhood obesity was on the rise and launched several studies to search for the causes and potential solutions.
In one study, Crawford followed a group of 9-year-old African American girls over a period of 10 years to determine why these youth were growing up heavier than other adolescents.
“Finally, we began to get some answers,” Crawford said. “We learned obesity wasn't the children's fault. They were living in environments that made the unhealthy choice cheaper and easier to find. It's so unfair for people who have fewer resources. Health disparities has to be the No. 1 thing we are working on to address chronic disease rates in this country.”
“The solution to obesity is prevention. It's cheaper and more effective than treatment,” Crawford continued. “Healthy food is a taste that is easy to acquire if it is not preempted by junk food.”
Crawford said she honed in on the best strategies for prevention by actively listening to people struggling to make healthy choices
“There is a chasm between research and community,” Crawford said. “We have to get people together from the research level and the policy level with folks on the ground. We need to learn from people.”
Above average rainfall in February benefits strawberry crops in the Central Valley
(ABC 30) Reuben Contreras, Feb. 28
…Above average rainfall in February will help this year's harvest last through October.
"It looks like it is in full bloom right now and it looks like it is going to rain. So we need the water as much as we can right now," said Michael Yang, University of California Cooperative Extension.
He works with small farms and specialty crops in the Hmong community, including a strawberry field in Northeast Fresno near Willow and Behymer.
Yang said the rain will add to the groundwater supply most farmers use to grow their crops plus it will help make the strawberries sweeter.
Ventura County Helps Keep Farming Alive in Southern California
(KCET) Teresa O'Connor, Feb. 27
…Connecting the community to the food system is vitally important for the health of individuals and the survival of local farms, according to Rose Hayden-Smith, Ph.D., who is the editor of the UCFoodObserver.com, an online publication for the University of California (UC). A long-term county resident, Hayden-Smith was previously sustainable food systems initiative leader for UC's Ag and Natural Resources division.
“Everyone eats: everyone is a stakeholder,” says Hayden-Smith. “I would like people to be engaged with the food system, and to advocate for positive change. Think about where your food comes from and ask critical questions about the supply chain. Meet people who are involved in producing, processing, distributing and preparing the food you eat. Honor them with questions about and interest in their work.”
Gene-edited animal creators look beyond US market
(Nature) Heidi Ledford, Feb. 20
…It isn't always easy to pick up a research project and move it to a different country. About ten years ago, difficulties finding funding for his research drove animal geneticist James Murray to move his transgenic goat project from the University of California in Davis to Brazil. The goats were engineered to produce milk that contained lysozyme, an enzyme with antibiotic properties. Murray hoped that the milk could help to protect children from diarrhoea.
Newly discovered nematode threatens key crops
(Farm Press) Logan Hawkes, Feb. 20
“The arrival of this nematode (Meloidogyne floridensis) in California is a little surprising — it has the potential to infect many of California's economically important crops,” says UCCE Kern County Advisor Mohammad Yaghmour. “Root samples had been collected from an almond orchard in Merced County last year, and confirmed at the California Department of Food and Agriculture's (CDFA) Nematology Lab as M. floridensis.”
Yaghmour facilitated the second discovery of the nematode in a Kern County orchard a month after the first was uncovered in an almond orchard in Merced County.
Ag Innovations Conference and Trade Show returning to Santa Maria for third event
(Santa Ynez Valley News) Mike Hodgson, Feb. 19
The Ag Innovations Conference and Trade Show will return to Santa Maria for its third event, this time focusing on biologicals, on March 5. The deadline for discounted early registration is next week.
… Considering the growing interest in biologicals and the demand for sustainably produced food, organizers selected topics on biocontrol agents, biostimulants and botanical and microbial pesticides and fungicides for the third conference, said organizer Surendra Dara, UC Cooperative Extension adviser for entomology and biologicals.
“The use of biocontrol agents, biopesticides, biostimulants and other such tools is gradually increasing in our efforts to produce with sustainable practices,” Dara said.
Almond Update: Orchard Recycling Research Showing Strong Results
(AgNet West) Taylor Hillman, Feb. 14
Orchard recycling research has been going on for over 10 years. UC Cooperative Extension Advisor Brent Holtz has been leading the project and said they continue to see positive results. There is an expense that comes with the practice but Holtz said their longest trial is making that cost back in added production.
NASA tech helps agriculture
(Hanford Sentinel) Julissa Zavala, Feb 13,
…In keeping with the expo's theme, “Harvesting Technology,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine visited the International Agri-Center in Tulare and spoke about how technology originally developed for space exploration is now being repurposed and used to improve numerous aspects of agriculture around the world.
…The measurement, also taken with LIDAR, can be used to calculate precise irrigation needs of plants and crops. Bridenstine said this pilot program, in partnership with the University of California Cooperative Extension and other agencies, is only being used in California.
UC Davis, wine industry cultivate relationship
(Fruit Growers News) Robin Derieux, Feb. 13
Under the hot summer sun of the San Joaquin Valley, just south of Merced, Miguel Guerrero of The Wine Group is trying a new high-wire act. In collaboration with University of California-Davis Cooperative Extension, Roduner Ranch vineyard manager Guerrero is experimenting with Cabernet Sauvignon vines and other varieties elevated by a single wire at 66 inches – plantings that are 2-3 feet higher than the traditional winegrape canopy.
…“The beauty of the high-wire system is that the fruit zone is really defined – a solid wall of grape clusters – and the pruning machine can just zip right alongside the vines,” said Kaan Kurtural, a UC Davis Cooperative Extension viticulture specialist. “We can carry more crop, and with mechanical leaf removal, we get that sun-dappled exposure that feeds the fruit. Less leaf cover means the vines require less water, and the grape quality is much better.”
There's Still So Much We Need To Learn About Weed—And Fast
(Wired) Matt Simon, Feb. 11
… But late last month, UC Berkeley opened the Cannabis Research Center to start tackling some of these social and environmental unknowns. With its proximity to the legendary growing regions of Northern California, the center can start to quantify this historically secretive industry, measuring its toll on the environment and looking at how existing rules affect the growers themselves. The goal is to create a body of data to inform future policies, making cannabis safer for all.
… So for the past few years Van Butsic, codirector of the Cannabis Research Center, and his colleagues have been sifting through satellite images to pinpoint those unaccounted-for farms. “We have an army of undergraduates who look at high-resolution imagery and digitize how big the farms are, how many plants we can see,” Butsic says. Because cannabis plants love light, growers usually keep them out in the open. The researchers still miss many trespass growers, however, who tend to hide their plants in the brush to avoid detection.
Cultured meat: Good or bad, promise or peril?
(Agweek) By Jonathan Knutson, Feb. 11
…To Alison Van Eenennaam, University of California-Davis Extension specialist in animal biotechnology and genomics, proponents of cell-based meat are "overhyping the environmental benefits" and providing an incomplete, misleading case for it.
Broomrape Weed Spreads Quickly
(AgNet West) Taylor Hillman, Feb. 8
By the time you see broomrape weed in your fields, it may be too late. There has been a resurgence of broomrape reports over the last decade in California. Retired UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor Gene Miyao said although the parasitic weed is far from widespread, it could become so quickly. “The seeds are very small, the growth is primarily underground until it starts sending up shoots and then it very quickly starts setting seed,” he said. “A single seed attached to a tomato plant may send up half-a-dozen shoots, and each shoot might have 1,000 seeds or more.”
New CA Bill Aims to Help Prepare Farmers for Extreme Weather, Changing Climate
(YubaNet) CalCAN, Feb. 7
The state and University of California have made significant investments in research to better understand agriculture's unique vulnerabilities and adaptation strategies to a changing climate, including in the state's recently released Fourth Climate Change Assessment. But not enough has been done to translate climate risks to the farm level and assist farmers in adapting to climate change.
…The bill would also fund trainings for technical assistance providers and agricultural organizations. According to a 2017 survey of 144 University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources staff, 88% of respondents believe it is important to incorporate climate change information into farm extension programs, but only 43% actually do. Respondents cited a lack of access to climate information relevant to farmers and expressed interest in education on technical tools and information resources.
Top administrators from UC ANR visit Imperial Valley
Imperial Valley Press
They were also briefed about UCCE and DREC projects, accomplishments and barriers by the directors, county advisors and CES representatives.
Drought concerns loom for California farmers, ranchers despite recent rain
(KSBY) Dustin Klemann, Feb. 6
Even with the onslaught of rainy weather, the U.S. Drought Monitor states San Luis Obispo County and Santa Barbara County remain in a moderate drought.
On Wednesday, the UC Cooperative Extension held a workshop in Solvang titled “Weather, Grass, and Drought: Planning for Uncertainty.”
“Leave it to a drought workshop to bring the rain,” Matthew Shapero joked. He is a livestock and range advisor for UCCE.
Shapero pointed out a call he received questioning the monitor's accuracy on a local level.
“He said ‘I really don't think the drought monitor accurately reflects what I am seeing on the ground.'”
… “We Californians are constantly accused of not having seasons. We do,” said Dr. Royce Larsen, an advisor of the UCCE. “We have fire, flood, mud, and drought. That's what we live with. And it's getting more and more so every year.”
California legislators honor Summit's Steward Leader Award Winners
(California Economic Summit, Feb. 5
Monday, February 4 was a red-letter day for stewardship in California. Not only was the California Legislature celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year and “National Wear Red Day” as a symbol of support for women's heart health, but members of both houses also paused to recognize Glenda Humiston and Paul Granillo as recipients of the California Economic Summit's 2018 Steward Leader Awards.
Revealed: how big dairy pushed fattier milks into US schools
(Guardian) Jessica Glenza, Feb. 4
…A nutritionist for the University of California called the idea that chocolate milk could help athletes “preposterous”.
“Milk is a very healthy beverage, it's got protein, calcium, vitamin D – there's a reason we are mammals and grow up drinking milk,” said Lorrene Ritchie, the director of the Nutrition Policy Institute at the University of California. “There's nothing about adding chocolate to it that's going to help an athlete.”
California's water paradox
(Morning Ag Clips/The Conversation) Faith Kearns and Doug Parker, Feb. 4
These days, it seems everyone is looking for a silver bullet solution to California's drought. Some advocate increasing supply through more storage, desalination or water reuse. Others propose controlling demand through conservation or restriction of water use by urban and agricultural users.
Camp Fire: When survival means shelter
(Mercury News) Lisa Krieger, Feb. 2
“We have to talk about it, as a community, to reduce vulnerability – especially for citizens who don't drive,” said Scott Stephens, co-director of UC-Berkeley's Center for Fire Research and Outreach. “In the Camp Fire, people didn't die because they wanted to stay. They had to stay. All of a sudden, the fire was at their front door step.”
For Australia's policy to work in California, residents must be physically and mental trained, said wildfire specialist Max A. Moritz with UC's Division of Agriculture & Natural Resources. In Australia, which conducts formal training, “there is active participation from homeowners … so both homes and people are better prepared.”