October 2014





Insights into Landmark Calorie Declines in the U.S. Food Marketplace

NCCOR’s Connect & Explore Webinar provides an in-depth look at the findings and groundbreaking methods from the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation evaluation

In an unprecedented review of the U.S. food system, researchers have, for the first time, used big data to track the number of foods and beverages consumed and purchased by Americans. The assessment, conducted by University of North Carolina (UNC) researchers, was part of an evaluation of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation’s (HWCF) pledge to remove 1 trillion calories from the marketplace by 2012, and 1.5 trillion by 2015.

The independent evaluation was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and examined the number of calories in packaged goods and the amount of calories purchased by U.S. families with children. The two studies, published September 17 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that 16 food industry leaders cut 6.4 trillion calories from the U.S. food market over five years (2007-2012). The findings also showed that American families with children bought 101 fewer calories from packaged goods per person per day in 2012 than they did in 2007.

“UNC’s evaluation of HWCF is revolutionary because it compiled data from many public and commercial sources to track the flow of foods and beverages from factory to fork,” said C. Tracy Orleans, Ph.D., RWJF’s senior scientist and NCCOR Steering Committee member. “The study results found that the nation’s leading consumer packaged goods companies exceeded their five-year commitment to reduce the number of calories they collectively sold and quantified the effects on per capita calories purchased by households with children.”

In the latest edition of Connect & Explore, the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) will dive deep into the study’s landmark findings and methods and examine how UNC researchers built such an innovative and thorough picture of the U.S. food system.

Join us at 2 pm, Eastern, on Thursday, October 9, for Connect & Explore: Insights into Landmark Calorie Declines in the U.S. Food Marketplace.

In an hour, we will: discuss the new research findings; examine the study’s revolutionary methods; and explore how this data opens unique opportunities to collaborate with industry leaders to find solutions that benefit both the health of Americans and companies’ bottom line.

Speakers include:

  • Shu Wen Ng, Ph.D., HWCF Evaluation Principal Investigator and Assistant Professor, Department of Nutrition, Gillings School of Public Health, University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill
  • C. Tracy Orleans, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

This event is free but attendance is limited, so tell a friend and register today!

Please also consider sharing this information on your social networks using the hashtag #ConnectExplore. We will also be live tweeting the event so be sure to follow the conversation at @NCCOR. For those who cannot attend, the webinar will be recorded and archived on www.nccor.org

To receive the webinar access information, you must register for this event:
Register for Connect & Explore: Insights into Landmark Calorie Declines in the U.S. Food Marketplace.

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Publications & Tools

Obesity rates increased in six states: New report highlights obesity trends, prevention strategies

Despite increasing evidence that obesity rates are stabilizing, rates remain high for adults and children. According to a recent report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America’s Health, obesity rates have increased in six states—Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Wyoming—and decreased in zero states. The annual report, “The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America,” previously known as “F as in Fat,” delves into key obesity indicators and trends and the highest-impact approaches in childhood obesity prevention. These approaches include the implementation of policies to: increase physical activity before, during, and after school; offer nutritious food and beverages at school; make healthy, affordable food prevalent in all communities; ensure healthy food and beverage marketing practices; engage healthcare professionals to more effectively prevent obesity both within and outside the clinic walls, in collaboration with community partners; and intensify the focus on prevention in early childhood.


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USDA releases evaluation on healthy incentives pilot

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Healthy Incentives Pilot (HIP) Final Evaluation Report” found that pilot participants consumed almost a quarter of a cup more fruits and vegetables per day than non-participants. The HIP evaluation was developed to test a method of making fruits and vegetables more affordable for participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The final evaluation report presents findings on the effects of HIP on fruit and vegetable consumption and spending, the processes involved in implementing and operating HIP, impacts on stakeholders, and the costs associated with the pilot.


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Announcing the launch of redesigned Built Environment and Public Health Clearinghouse

Launched in 2014, the Built Environment and Public Health Clearinghouse provides training and resources at the university and professional levels and a source for relevant news at the critical intersection of health and place. Intended to be an evolving resource, the Clearinghouse includes more than 1,100 glossary terms, 56 sources of free webinars on multisector approaches, and 23 multidisciplinary academic planning programs that intersect architecture, health impact assessment, planning, public health, and transportation engineering.


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Preventing obesity earlier: New report highlights the latest evidence

Childhood obesity has major implications for the physical and psychosocial well-being of millions of children and youth living in the United States. Research shows that obesity may be very difficult to reverse if children are obese by age 5. A recent report from the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut titled, “Preventing Childhood Obesity: Maternal/Child Life Course Approach” reviews the scientific evidence on what is known about early determinants of childhood obesity and presents promising practices and policy recommendations for improving healthy lifestyles and weight outcomes from gestation through early childhood.


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Childhood Obesity Research & News

Soda makers Coca Cola, PepsiCo, and Dr Pepper join in effort to cut Americans’ drink calories

Sept. 23, 2014, The New York Times

By Stephanie Strom

The three largest soda companies—Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and the Dr Pepper Snapple Group—have pledged to cut the number of sugary drink calories that Americans consume by one-fifth in about a decade, through a combination of marketing, distribution, and packaging.

The commitment, made Sept. 23 at the 10th annual Clinton Global Initiative, was an acknowledgment by the companies of the role their products play in the country’s obesity crisis and the escalating rates of diabetes and heart disease that accompany it.

“This is huge,” former President Bill Clinton said in a telephone interview. “I’ve heard it could mean a couple of pounds of weight lost each year in some cases.”

He said that in low-income communities, sugary sodas may account for a half or more of the calories a child consumes each day. Sugary soft drinks account for about 6 percent of the average consumer’s daily calories.

The companies aim to reduce each American’s calorie consumption in sugary drinks by 20 percent on average by 2025. They will expand the presence of low- and no-calorie drinks, as well as drinks sold in smaller portions, and use their promotional skills to educate consumers and encourage them to reduce the calories they are drinking. The program will cover company-owned vending machines and coolers in convenience stores, as well as fountain soda dispensers like those found in fast-food restaurants and movie theaters. The companies control almost all of those machines, in addition to about one-third of vending machines and 80 percent of coolers.

It also will spill into grocery stores in end-of-aisle promotions and other marketing. “We’ll use the most critical levers we have at our disposal, and the focus really will be on transforming the beverage landscape in the United States over the next 10 years,” said Susan Neely, chief executive of the American Beverage Association, the industry trade group.

It builds on a previous commitment the companies made to reduce the calories in the drinks they sell on school campuses and will incorporate lessons learned in Chicago and San Antonio, where they worked with mayors to improve the health of municipal employees by reducing calories in the sodas sold in vending machines in public buildings.

The new program, which will start in Little Rock, Ark., and Los Angeles, will use some of the same tactics, Ms. Neely said.

The companies have faced an onslaught of regulatory proposals over the last several years, ranging from a contentious effort by then-Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in New York to limit the size of soda containers to a stalled bill in California that would require warning labels on such drinks.

Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition and public health at New York University and a prolific writer about food issues, noted that the companies have fought such efforts vigorously.

“While they’re making this pledge, they are totally dug in, fighting soda tax initiatives in places like Berkeley, Calif. and San Francisco that have exactly the same goal,” said Professor Nestle, who has just finished a book about the industry.

Sales of sugary drinks have been declining for more than a decade, because of greater awareness among consumers about the link between their eating habits and their health. From 2000 to 2013, calories consumed through sugary drinks fell 12 percent, according to Beverage Digest, attributed to declining soda sales and increased consumption of water and low-calorie drinks.

Over that time, soda companies have expanded their portfolios to include waters, juices and energy and sports drinks, and they continue to diversify. This year, Coca-Cola bought a minority stake in Monster, the energy drink company, and a similar investment in Keurig Green Mountain has led to the development of a machine to make cold single-serve drinks, which will be introduced this fall to compete with SodaStream soda makers.

Health advocates generally dismissed the Sept. 23 announcement as little more than another example of the industry’s marketing prowess.

“I suspect they’re promising what’s going to happen anyway,” said Kelly Brownell, an expert on obesity and dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. “All the trends are showing decreased consumption of high-calorie beverages, and so what better way to get a public relations boost than to promise to do what’s happening anyway?”

Mr. Clinton said he recognized how hard it would be for consumers to change their habits. “When I was in my freshman year in college trying to live on a dollar a day, I drank at least one and sometimes two 16-ounce bottles of Royal Crown Cola a day because they cost 15 cents,” he said.

But after a heart operation in 2004, Mr. Clinton radically altered his diet. He said he now mostly drinks water or iced tea, though he likes Gatorade G2, a sports drink with 30 calories.


Original source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/24/business/big-soda-companies-agree-on-effort-to-cut-americans-drink-calories.html?_r=0

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To stop picky eaters from tossing the broccoli, give them choices

Sept. 24, 2014, NPR [The Salt blog]

By Luke Runyon

In many communities, the local school district is the largest food provider, filling thousands of hungry bellies every day. But trying to feed healthful food to some of the pickiest eaters can result in mountains of wasted food.

Now, many schools are finding that giving kids a say in what they eat can cut down on what ends up in the trash.

It’s a lesson you can see in action in the lunchroom of Harris Bilingual Elementary School in Fort Collins, Colo. Kindergartners in light-up tennis shoes and pigtails march single-file into the cafeteria, sliding small trays along a salad bar.

“Alison, que quieres? Oh, broccoli, tambien,” says Kate Kosakowski, a teacher’s assistant at the school. She gives the pigtailed kindergartner a pat on the back and places several florets on the tray. Kids speak in both English and Spanish throughout the school week at Harris. Poudre School District, which includes Harris elementary, serves almost 15,000 meals a day.

The salad and fruit bar is a staple of this lunchroom. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture updated its school nutrition standards, mandating more fruits and vegetables on students’ trays. So when one kindergartner tries to sneak past without taking a vegetable, Kosakowski swoops in.

“Oh, let’s try something new today,” Kosakowski says, grabbing a hold of the boy’s tray. “Pick one to try.”

He relents and grabs some carrots. But there’s nothing that says that picky kid has to eat what he takes. The school can provide the choices, but some kids just will not eat.

Nationwide, the National School Lunch Program feeds more than 30 million students each year. Food waste has always been a problem for large institutions like school districts. Studies have shown that kids throw away anywhere from 24 to 35 percent of the food on their trays.

But there was particular angst over these latest healthy lunch standards. Conventional wisdom says kids do not like vegetables and that by mandating more veggies on trays, waste was going to go up.

“Our goal as a department and a district is to make sure the last kid has the same choices as the first in the variety and the quality,” says Craig Schneider, director of nutrition for the Poudre School District. “But we also don’t want to have so much food out there that it’s being thrown away.”

Conventional wisdom does not give kids enough credit, Schneider says. A Harvard University study found that after the new standards went into effect, kids ate better, and the increased portions of fruits and vegetables did not cause waste to go up. A Government Accountability Office report noted that many school districts have complained about increased waste, but it acknowledged a lack of data and summarized those notions of trash cans piled high with wasted veggies as anecdotal. Few studies have been published that compare plate waste from before and after the introduction of the new standards.

The key to cutting down on waste in the lunchroom is choice, according to researchers. By allowing kids to make their own food decisions, rather than asking lunch ladies to load up trays, you disarm their pickiness.

“Food is money,” Schneider says. “So we really want to manage that cost. But also, we just don’t want to be throwing away food. It’s just that simple.”

But waste in schools is still a huge problem. A Colorado State University (CSU) research team found the average student throws away more than one-third of the food on the tray, most of that being fruits and vegetables. That’s a higher percentage than food wasted at home.

“It’s really tough for the schools, because they’re dependent on their clients, the students,” says CSU nutritionist Leslie Cunningham-Sabo, who led the study. “And I think it’s really tough to balance healthy food with the taste preferences of the clients.”

Cunningham-Sabo says school districts can make subtle changes with big effects on food waste. She says when some schools have inverted lunch and recess, putting play before the cafeteria, food waste was cut by 30 percent.

“There’s a lot of evidence to support having recess before lunch,” she says. “And the kids get out there, they get to play, they get to socialize, they burn off some energy, and they come in hungry for lunch.”

Other research shows healthy food marketing can change student attitudes about fruits and vegetables. Schools should not be afraid to get creative and can rebrand vegetables as things kids would actually clamor to get their hands on, says dietitian Stephanie Smith. Try calling it “Super Power Cauliflower,” she says, or instead of green beans, “Laser Beans.”

“Involve the students. Let them help set the menu. Get them more involved,” Smith says. “That way they have more buy-in, their school lunch participation increases, and hopefully, waste decreases.”

Back at the lunchroom at Harris elementary in Fort Collins, Colo., fourth-graders clean their trays before raising their hands to be dismissed from the cafeteria.

They ate everything. But we as a society usually do not. We waste roughly 35 million tons of food a year. If consumers are really going to cut down on food waste, we will all have to start eating our vegetables.


Original source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/09/24/350970100/to-stop-picky-eaters-from-tossing-the-broccoli-give-them-choices

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School lunches are getting healthier, more balanced

Sept. 12, 2014, The News-Herald

By Amy Popik

Fresh fruits and vegetables, proteins, and whole grains are filling up lunch trays in local schools to promote a healthy and balanced diet for students.

The push for healthier lunches, especially in the last few years, has caused schools to make changes to the school lunch menu and food offerings.

Deb Tyler, cafeteria supervisor for Cardinal School District in Geauga County [in Middlefield, Ohio], said a strong focus on whole grains follows directives established in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

Based on the given requirements, it is not surprising that all breads served to students are whole grain. However, some may find it interesting that pizza crusts, all pastas, strudels, and even breading used for chicken patties are comprised of whole-grain products.

“The whole grains are super important” Tyler said, adding that the switch to healthier grains is the most comprehensive change in food offerings realized during her several years of working in school cafeterias.

Julie Sollars, cafeteria supervisor for Ledgemont School District who has been serving students there for 19 years, agreed that implementing whole grains has markedly altered meals.

“We used to serve a dessert quite often,” she said. “Now if we have a cookie it’s whole grain.”

The use of some white whole grains rather than those showing the usual, tell-tale dark color of the product encourages more consumption by those who may be averse to the healthier food.

“The kids don’t even notice the difference,” Sollars said, adding it has been easier filling requirements for fruits and vegetables since a salad bar was introduced.

Though preparation of items such as green peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce takes more time than the use of pre-packaged products, the benefits are well worth it.

Days on which the salad bar is offered are among those on which most students (60 to 70 percent) as well as staff purchase their lunch, Sollars said.

Another significant change in nutrition standards for schools is the mandate for students to choose three of five food components—one of which must be a fruit or vegetable.

“Kids have more food on their trays (than in the past) because it’s required,” Tyler said.

“Hopefully they at least try it and maybe like it.”

One aspect that the Cardinal District nutrition service’s staff continues to work toward is lowering sodium content.

Canned vegetables, cereals, and other items typically containing high amounts of the item have been replaced.

“Our goal is to get below 640 milligrams of sodium, but that depends on the producer,” said George Ule, food service supervisor for Euclid Schools, adding the lunches contain no trans fats and foods are baked, not fried.

The district working through the nutritional guidelines and are in compliance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“There has been much more fresh fruits and vegetables offered over the years,” he said as one of the changes he has noticed. “Kids are more likely to take fresh fruits and vegetables, where in the past only a fraction would take it.”

A typical lunch at Chardon Hills Magnet School in Euclid, Ohio has a center plate protein, a half-cup of fruit, usually a fresh fruit, three-fourths cup of vegetables—with a mix of dark greens, starchy, and red/orange vegetables throughout the week—and a low-fat or no-fat milk, he said.

One of the challenges with the shift in healthier options is making those options appealing to students.

“Many times what we are serving is similar to what restaurants have, but for instance, because we are curbing sodium, it has become harder for us to entice the students with a flavorful meal,” he said. “We want to make sure we are complying with the guidelines and we know that it is what’s best for students.”

Recently, Kirtland Schools approved an agreement with Euclid Schools to share food service management.

Ule is helping Kirtland by providing similar menus that are offered at Euclid as well as guidance for the district to make sure they are in compliance with nutrition standards.

“I’m very proud of the program we have at Euclid and I want to share that with them,” he said.

“I will be working to make sure the tastes align at Kirtland with the menus, and so far, the foods have been very well received.” The partnership between the two schools is for one year, Ule is confident it will work out well.

Willoughby-Eastlake Schools welcomed a new food service provider this year.

“Our partnership with Chartwells means that we have hired an expert food management company passionate about food quality, student satisfaction, integrity, and accountability,” said Superintendent Steve Thompson by email. “This includes local registered dietitians and chefs to support wellness goals in our schools, and innovative programs to achieve the financial efficiencies for our school district’s dining program.”

He said with the new partnership, the district will save approximately $160,000 per year and Chartwells will spend $280,000 for new kitchen equipment in the schools.

“We wanted to increase the resources available to us in order to improve food quality, health, and taste while driving down our operational costs,” he said. “Our Chartwells partnership means a commitment to providing students with wholesome, appealing meals and achieving increased participation in our food programs.”

So far, the district has been happy with the results.

“Lunch sales have increased and the students and staff report that the quality of the food is excellent,” Thompson said.


Original source: http://www.news-herald.com/general-news/20140915/school-lunches-are-getting-healthier-more-balanced

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