Posts Tagged: nutrition
Cooperative Extension researcher: Nutrition course a boon for UC Berkeley students
College students across the nation are struggling to meet their basic food needs. Within the University of California system of 280,000 students, 38% of undergraduate students and 20% of graduate students report food insecurity.
As part of the UC Global Food Initiative, in 2015 the Nutrition Policy Institute (a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources statewide research center) identified student food insecurity as a UC systemwide problem, prompting the UC Regents and campuses to collectively address the issue.
All 10 UC campuses now have on-site basic needs centers, providing food, emergency housing and support services. The UC system and campus working groups recognize that meeting basic needs, such as food, is a multidimensional challenge.
In response to the 2022 White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, which called for national efforts to reduce diet-related disease and food insecurity, UC renewed their commitment to cut the proportion of students facing food insecurity in half by 2030. Campuses will partner with local counties to maximize enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as CalFresh in California), provide food for students who do not qualify for CalFresh, and allocate campus food resources to historically underserved student populations.
NPI's collaborative researchers continue to monitor the impact of these efforts, in addition to other interventions, such as supporting students in building basic culinary skills, to improve food security. One multipronged approach to address food insecurity at UC Berkeley is a 14-week course on Personal Food Security and Wellness with a Teaching Kitchen laboratory component.
Sarah Minkow, who teaches the Personal Food Security and Wellness course at UC Berkeley, shared that students learn about nutrition and gain culinary skills through the Cal Teaching Kitchen.
The curriculum is designed with consideration for the time, cost and convenience of healthy eating. Discussions include food safety, calculating nutrient needs, mindful eating and reading nutrition labels. The Teaching Kitchen laboratory brings the lessons to life through knife skills, “no-cook” cooking, microwave cooking and sheet pan meals.
Minkow enthusiastically highlighted her students' “overwhelmingly positive [response to the] lecture and lab,” suggesting the benefits of an interactive learning environment to garner student engagement.
“Students often give feedback that they wish this was a required course for all UC Berkeley students,” said Minkow. She noted one barrier to reaching more students: capacity of the Teaching Kitchen space.
Susana Matias, a Cooperative Extension specialist at the UC Berkeley Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology and collaborative researcher with the NPI, evaluated the impact of the Personal Food Security and Wellness course at UC Berkeley.
Matias reported that increasing food literacy and culinary skills among students has shown to increase intake of fruits and vegetables, and frequency of cooking, and reduce the number of skipped meals. Her study on the impact of the 14-week nutrition course also found a significant decrease in student food insecurity.
Across the UC System, students are benefiting from their campus Teaching Kitchens, including UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UCLA and UC Riverside. Other campuses such as UC San Diego, UC San Francisco, UC Santa Cruz and UC Santa Barbara offer basic student cooking classes as well.
Katherine Lanca, UC Global Food Initiative fellow working with NPI, attended the 2022 Teaching Kitchen Research Conference as part of her fellowship to learn about the latest research on teaching kitchens supporting equitable health outcomes.
The conference was hosted at UCLA by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Department of Nutrition in association with the Teaching Kitchen Collaborative. Teaching kitchens are a promising approach to supporting food security and cultivating lifelong habits, especially among a college student population./h3>
Comidas gratis para todos en escuelas y un equipo de expertos a cargo de encontrar soluciones prácticas al gran reto logístico.
A fin de combatir las disparidades sociales que estorban en el aprendizaje y desarrollo de los niños, California extiende permanentemente, a partir del próximo año escolar 2022-2023, el Programa Universal de Comidas Escolares.
Al ofrecer 2 de 3 comidas al día gratis a todos los niños en las escuelas, los estudiantes tendrán una alimentación adecuada que les ayudará aprender y alcanzar su potencial y el Instituto de Políticas de Nutrición, NPI, estará a cargo de ejecutar un estudio para evaluar sobre la marcha el enorme reto logístico que esto implica para las escuelas y deberá buscar soluciones prácticas a los problemas que se presenten sobre la marcha.
“Va a ser un desafío para las escuelas el tener un aumento tan grande de estudiantes que estarán participando en el programa” sostiene Mónica Daniela Zuercher, experta de nutrición de NPI, la unidad de investigación la División de Agricultura y Recursos Naturales de la Universidad de California.
En una economía difícil, cuando la inseguridad alimentaria alcanza niveles inimaginables, finalmente se adopta, un viejo anhelo de las expertas de nutrición: ofrecer alimentos saludables a todos los estudiantes.
“Tenemos que pensar a largo plazo, al tener niños saludables tendremos adultos saludables, entonces habrá un ahorro en medicinas. Pero además está la parte cognitiva y de desarrollo, ¿cómo esperamos que aprenda un niño en la escuela si tiene hambre o sí está cansado?” señala la experta.
De manera permanente, alrededor de 6 millones de estudiantes en todo el estado podrán obtener los beneficios del Programa Universal sin formularios y sin preguntas molestas y los más beneficiados serán los latinos, porque son mayoría en las escuelas, representan 55 por cientos y son el grupo con más desventajas económicas junto con los afroamericanos.
Habrá estudiantes bien alimentados, padres menos estresados y a largo plazo, California obtendrá ahorros en la salud, toda vez que desde temprana edad los niños aprenderán a preferir los alimentos saludables previniendo problemas de salud como obesidad, diabetes y enfermedades crónicas.
En el 2010 ocurrió una revolución en las cafeterías escolares con el establecimiento de la Ley Niños Saludables y Sin Hambre Healhty Hunger-Free Kids Act. A partir de entonces se sirven en las cafeterías escolares, más frutas, verduras y granos integrales, menos grasas, sodio, azucares y se han ido eliminado las bebidas azucaradas.
California, es el primer estado en implementar las comidas gratis permanentemente. Se trata de un proceso logístico complejo que debe ser evaluado por expertos, y por esa razón NPI recibió fondos por 2.4 millones de dólares, para llevar a cabo un seguimiento, que durará 4 años, para identificar problemas y emitir soluciones con celeridad durante todo este periodo.
“Es un estudio muy emocionante porque evalúa diferentes etapas, desde inició como una medida por el Covid-19 hasta el desafío que va a ser para las escuelas el tener un aumento tan grande de estudiantes que estarán participando en el programa. Entonces vamos a captar el reto que tuvieron (las escuelas) para adaptarse durante la pandemia misma y los problemas que irán surgiendo en la marcha” explica Zuercher.
Esta investigación se ejecutará junto con representantes del Departamento de Educación de California y con todos los involucrados en el proceso: responsables de los servicios de alimentos en las escuelas, los padres de familia y estudiantes.
Las encuestas que forman parte del estudio, se han planeado en base a las necesidades de la población escolar, por lo que se están implementando en inglés y español para reflejar las inquietudes y opiniones de los latinos.
He aquí algunos de los resultados preliminares que por ahora solo incluyen opiniones de los directores de servicios de alimentos en las escuelas:
- Los trabajadores de las cafeterías hicieron un trabajo increíble durante la crisis de la pandemia para adaptar las comidas escolares que se servían en las escuelas, en comidas para llevar. Ellos sortearon con éxito todo tipo de cambios imprevistos por la falta de trabajadores y los retos en el suministro de alimentos.
- Ofrecer las comidas escolares para todos los estudiantes permitió disminuir la inseguridad alimentaria entre los estudiantes durante la emergencia de Covid-19.
- Aumentó el número de estudiantes que participan en las comidas escolares.
- Disminuyó la deuda de los padres de familia cuyos hijos no recibían comidas escolares subsidiadas. Un beneficio tanto para las escuelas como para las familias.
- Hubo una ligera reducción en el estigma que prevalece sobre los alimentos escolares.
Las comidas escolares han sido un elemento básico en la lucha contra la inseguridad alimentaria, pero han generado conflicto y presión social dentro de las escuelas. Alrededor de los alimentos gratis hay sentimientos de culpa, rechazo y vergüenza.
Zuercher enfatiza que en la memoria de muchos padres y estudiantes persisten la idea, equivocada, de que los alimentos escolares son comida chatarra o comidas de pobres.
“Hemos escuchado tanto de directores de alimentos como de algunos padres de familia que aún prevalece la vieja idea de que las comidas escolares no son saludables. Es una asociación comida escolar no es saludable, no es comida fresca, no es recién hecha”, sostiene Zuercher.
La hipótesis de los expertos es que al extender las comidas escolares gratis a todos los estudiantes también se podrá eliminar el conflicto y la presión social que estas generan y eso es algo que el tiempo podrá corroborar.
Consumers save over $41 a month after attending UC Cooperative Extension nutrition workshops
Consumers have seen their grocery bills rising over the last few months. To save money, buying store or generic brands and preparing meals at home are a couple of ways to adapt in the short term, according to UC Cooperative Extension nutrition educators.
UCCE nutrition educators offer tips and workshops to help families participating in the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program and CalFresh Healthy Living, UC program. With the information, the families are better able to make their food dollars last all month.
“After attending the workshop series, households across California were finding a savings of over $41 a month,” said Natalie Price, UCCE nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor in Los Angeles County.
Through a series of workshops and informational fliers, participating households have had success in reducing their food bill, improving healthy food knowledge, and improving food safety.
Currently UCCE offers EFNEP and CalFresh Healthy Living, UC lessons in 40 out of the 58 California counties. From Del Norte to San Diego County, nutrition educators are working with families to improve their diet quality and physical activity through a series of workshops available to eligible households. In a series of six to nine one-hour classes, families learn how to buy, store and prepare healthy, safe and nutritious food.
The EFNEP classes held throughout the state reach, on average, more than 17,000 participants, including attendees and household members of attendees. After taking the class, one participant said, “Before I only bought what was on sale, but now I have a shopping list. I have a menu of the week and I always look at the ingredients.”
Science-based nutrition information consistently ranks as one of the top areas of interest among the public, and these programs represent one of the premier opportunities to reach Californians with relevant resources.
“Over 90% of our program graduates reported (in post-class surveys) improved food resource management skills such as planning meals, making a shopping list, and comparing food prices, which has resulted in $19 to $64 grocery bill savings per month,” said Marisa Neelon, UCCE nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor for Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
Knowing what to buy, how to prepare and what to eat are key to help households improve both costs and nutrition. As one participant commented, “[I make] a list before I go shopping and planning what I will cook to avoid overspending.” Knowing what to buy, how to prepare and what to eat are key to help households improve both costs and nutrition.
This success has been replicated in other counties and translated into major savings for families at the grocery store. These savings can add up and make a significant impact, especially in the current environment of rising food prices.
The UCCE nutrition educators shared their top tips to save money on food:
- Check the grocery flyers for the food sales
- Make weekly menus of the food needed for your family meals and snacks
- Buy store or generic brands instead of national brands
- Read food labels to choose items that are nutrient rich
- Purchase canned and frozen foods along with fresh items
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources has a list of online resources for anyone interested in becoming more active and eating healthier at https://ucanr.edu/sites/resourcedirectory.
Scientists make the first large-scale estimate of live microorganisms consumed in the U.S. diet
Our diets provide us with the building blocks we need to stay healthy and fight disease. The nutrients in foods and beverages can be tallied up to know if we are getting what our bodies need. Yet what if a nutrient has been overlooked? For instance, friendly microbes in raw and fermented foods have not been measured as part of our diets — until now.
“Ultimately we want to understand if there should be a recommended daily intake of these microbes to keep us healthy, either through the foods or from probiotic supplements,” said Maria Marco, a professor in the food science and technology department at UC Davis. “In order to do that, we need to first quantify the number of live microorganisms we consume today in our diets.”
Marco co-authored a new study with a group of scientists that examined the number of living microbes per gram of more than 9,000 different foods consumed by nearly 75,000 adults and children. It found that around 20% of children and 26% of adults consumed foods with high levels of live microorganisms in their diet. Both children and adults increased their consumption of these foods over the 18-year study period. The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, is the first large-scale estimate of how many live microbes are consumed by Americans every day.
“This trend is going in the right direction. Exposure to friendly microorganisms in our foods can be good for promoting a healthy immune system.” said Marco.
Foods for gut health
Study authors examined the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to create the estimate. The health and dietary database contains extensive information on the foods consumed by Americans daily. Food science and fermentation experts assigned each food an estimated range of live microbes per gram, creating categories of foods with low, medium and high levels of live microbes. Foods in the high category included fermented dairy foods such as yogurt, fermented pickles and kimchi. Fresh, uncooked fruits and vegetables were also good sources of live microorganisms, represented in the medium category.
The analysis was funded by a grant from the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics, or ISAPP. The microorganisms quantified in this study are not necessarily probiotics.
“By definition, a probiotic must be well-defined and have a demonstrated health benefit at a quantified dose. Live microbes associated with food as a category, however, do not generally meet the criteria of a probiotic,” said corresponding author Mary Ellen Sanders, executive science officer for the ISAPP.
The publication is part of a larger global effort to determine how live dietary microbes might contribute to health.
“There is no doubt that the microbes we eat affect our health. When we think of microbes in our food, we often think of either foodborne pathogens that cause disease or probiotics that provide a documented health benefit,” said co-author Colin Hill, a professor of microbial food safety with University College Cork, Ireland. “But it's important to also explore dietary microbes that we consume in fermented and uncooked foods. It is very timely to estimate the daily intake of microbes by individuals in modern society as a first step towards a scientific evaluation of the importance of dietary microbes in human health and well-being.”
Other scientists co-authoring the paper were ISAPP board members Robert Hutkins, Dan Merenstein, Daniel J. Tancredi, Christopher J. Cifelli, Jaime Gahche, Joanne L. Slavin and Victor L. Fulgoni III.
Editor's note: Maria Marco is affiliated with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources as an Agricultural Experiment Station faculty member./h3>/h3>
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources recently held a nutrition Facebook Live webinar on how to find healthy food options that fit your lifestyle. Over the lunch break on April 7, participants heard from three UC ANR nutrition experts:
- Javier Miramontes; UC Extended Food and Nutrition Education Program nutrition and program supervisor for Orange County
- Aba Ramirez; UC adult EFNEP nutrition educator for Los Angeles County
- Mary Blackburn; UC Cooperative Extension Nutrition, Family and Consumer Sciences Advisor for Alameda County
The conversation began with Miramontes and Ramirez discussing the MyPlate nutrition plan, in which participants balance each meal with parts of each food group.
“Half of your plate should be made up of fruits and vegetables, but it's not a one-size-fits-all, as children and adults need different amounts of these foods,” said Ramirez.
The nutrition educators then highlighted choices from each of the food groups that are better choices than others for health.
“When choosing a protein source, make sure to look for low-fat meat options (i.e. grilled chicken instead of fried chicken) to reduce calorie intake,” Miramontes said. “Or try unsalted over salted nuts to cut down processed foods and sodium intake.”
As a follow-up, Blackburn addressed the tensions between a healthy diet and individuals' food intolerances and food allergies.
“A food allergy is when a food activates the person's immune system, whereas a food intolerance means someone will have difficulty digesting a food,” she explained.
People can have intolerances to foods from all across the MyPlate groups, including foods such as whole wheat bread, peanuts and tomatoes. This issue appears to be a growing problem, as Blackburn noted that “every year we see the number of (food intolerance) cases increasing and the number of foods belonging to these categories increasing.”
“We must take matters into our own hands,” Blackburn continued, “by selectively choosing foods and see how our bodies respond; if you find yourself consistently bloated after consuming a meal, it may be best practice to limit one of those foods for some time, and then see how your body responds.”
Blackburn described how individuals – by becoming their own body's scientists – can experiment with adding and removing different foods and seeing how their body responds.
Audience members were invited to ask questions of the speakers and to learn more about what they could do to achieve their own healthy food and nutrition goals.
A full recording of the webinar with captions is on Facebook. To date, the video has been viewed more than 23,000 times. Look for future UC ANR Facebook Lives on the UC ANR Facebook page that highlight the great work Extension educators are doing around California.