March 2020 Newsletter

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A Note From Our Director

Dear Readers,
 
These days it’s hard to read, talk, or think about much else than COVID-19. Like many of you reading this newsletter, all of us at the Rudd Center are now working from home. This time has brought a range of personal challenges.  In my house, the problem of “not enough bandwidth” comes up figuratively - and literally - at least once a day. In response, it makes sense to loosen up some of the rules and expectations. When resources are particularly limited, the most important thing is to keep everyone safe and healthy.
 
Two of the systems we study at the Rudd Center – schools and food banks - are working to do just that by providing food to their communities. Schools face the unprecedented challenge of feeding children who are not in the building. We’ve heard of schools that send meals on school buses, and programs that mail students boxes of shelf-stable foods. Our colleagues at the Tisch Center have put together a database of how districts around the country are feeding students during closures.
 
To facilitate these emergency solutions, many of the USDA’s rules about how school and child care meals should be served have been waived – including the nutrition standards. Food banks are also facing significant challenges – in particular, fewer volunteers and reduced retail donations.
 
Just a few weeks ago, if you had asked me about schools and food banks, I would have focused on the significant changes they have made in recent years to improve the nutritional quality of the foods they provide. In fact, earlier this month we published an editorial about the success of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, and last month we released the final report from a year-long project to define a set of nutrition standards specifically designed for food banks. 
 
So, where does this leave us today? Some would argue that nutrition standards are something that can be put aside during the Coronavirus crisis while we focus on getting food – any food – out the door to all of the people who need it. While this is certainly an unprecedented time with an urgent and critical need for food assistance across the country, keeping nutrition front of mind remains important because so many people are now reliant on systems like schools and food banks for a significant proportion of their food. Providing access to a nutrient-rich diet is critical to support public health.
 
The USDA asks local child nutrition program officers to maintain and meet the nutrition standards for each program to the greatest extent possible and stands ready to provide technical assistance. Feeding America has also been working to support food banks in their network, and locally here in Connecticut, Foodshare and the Connecticut Food Bank are committed to providing nutritious food for people in need.
 
Thank you to the front-line responders who are continuing to provide the most nutritious foods they can to keep our communities safe and healthy. Supporting their efforts is necessary to mitigate further health disparities as a consequence of this pandemic. To learn what you can do to help, you can find your local food bank here.
 
With gratitude,
Marlene

Recent Publications

Infant Formula and Toddler Milk Marketing and Caregiver's Provision to Young Children

The World Health Organization International Code of Breastmilk Substitutes does not allow claims and other marketing that may confuse caregivers about benefits of infant formula and other milk-based drinks for infants and toddlers. However, previous research has shown continued widespread marketing of infant formula directly to U.S. consumers through television advertising, digital marketing, and other marketing tactics. Similarly, advertising for toddler milks increased by 74% from 2011 to 2015.
 
This study surveyed U.S. parents and other primary caregivers of infants and toddlers to measure their agreement with common marketing claims, identify products they served their child, and assess the relationship between agreement with claims and products served. While 80% of study participants agreed with expert recommendations to serve breastmilk to infants and plain whole milk to toddlers, a majority of participants also agreed with unsupported marketing claims that compare infant formula favorably to breastmilk and toddler milks to healthy foods.

» read more

Joint International Consensus Statement for Ending Stigma of Obesity

Weight stigma occurs in almost every aspect of our society, and as a result, those with obesity commonly face discrimination in the workplace, in educational settings, and in healthcare settings. Furthermore, the damaging impact of weight stigma extends beyond harm to individuals – it perpetuates the view that obesity is a choice and that it can be entirely reversed by voluntary decisions to eat less and exercise more. This results in negative influences on public health policies, access to treatments, and research.
 
To best inform healthcare practitioners, policymakers, and the public about stigma associated with obesity, a multi-disciplinary group of international experts reviewed available evidence on the causes and harms of weight stigma. They have pledged their support for a consensus statement that recognizes public portrayals of obesity as a major cause of weight stigma and call for strong policies and legislation to prevent weight-based discrimination.

» read more

Rudd Center In The News

School Calling Overweight People Fat or Lazy Must Stop Because Stigma is 'Blocking the Fight Against the Obesity Epidemic', Experts Say
Featured: Rebecca Puhl, Deputy Director

Bettina Elias Siegel's "Kid Food" Explains My Daughter's Love Affair with a Fast Food Chain
Featured: UConn Rudd Center

Marketing Makes Dubious Claims About Infant Formulas
Featured: Jennifer Harris, Senior Research Advisor, Marketing Initiatives

Scientific Community Pledges to End Obesity Stigma
Featured: Rebecca Puhl, Deputy Director

What's Simmering With Our Friends?

Rapid Health Impact Assessment on USDA Proposed Changes to School Nutrition Standards
Healthy Eating Research

With the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak resulting in school closures across the United States, the importance of healthy school meals has taken on new urgency. RWJF and Healthy Eating Research have released a Health Impact Assessment on USDA’s proposed changes to school nutrition standards, which finds strong evidence that the current stronger nutrition standards improve students' diet quality, and that participation in school meals increases students' food security - this is important to remember at a time when healthy meals may be at a premium for millions of children and families. Learn more.

End Hunger in 30 Challenge
Congressional Hunger Center

Hunger in the United States persists because of misunderstandings and gaps in knowledge. Myths and stereotypes about who experiences hunger and why obscure the facts and erode public support for proven remedies. The End Hunger in 30 Challenge prepares you to be an effective advocate for ending hunger in your community. Starting today, April 1st, set aside 30 minutes a day for guided lessons, readings from experts, and a lively discussion forum to sharpen your knowledge and skills as a Zero Hunger Advocate. Sign up here.

Healthy Partnerships

What's Going on in Water?
National Drinking Water Alliance 2019 Highlights

The National Drinking Water Alliance wrapped up its 4th and final year of grant funding from the WK Kellogg Foundation. During those years, the Alliance raised the profile of drinking water in communities, statehouses, and on Capitol Hill; increased the evidence base with peer-reviewed science; and developed numerous resources, such as educational factsheets, advocacy materials, and a website dedicated to the Alliance.
  
Read the full list of highlights from 2019 here.

 

News to Chew On

Washington Post
How Can You Help During the Coronavirus Outbreak

NPR
Yes, You Can Take Your Kids For A Walk
 
Food Navigator
Proposal to Simplify School Meals Could 'Put Children's Health and Education at Risk,' Research Finds
 
Seattle Times
Seattle Will Provide $800 Each in Supermarket Vouchers to Thousands of Families During Coronavirus Crisis

Washington Post
'If Coronavirus Doesn't Get Us, Starvation Will': A Growing Number of Americans Say They Can't Afford to Stock Up On Groceries, Dire Projections Show

ABC News
USDA Relaxes Requirements for Parents to Pick Up School Meals, As Some Are Still Being Turned Away

The Hill
Leveraging SNAP to Alleviate Poverty - A Proven Policy Approach Needed Now