Food Policy & Environment
Over the past 15 years there has been tremendous acceptance of the idea that we need to address obesity through public health and public policy approaches to improve the environment and influence the health of a population. The idea of taxing foods at a rate large enough to make a difference in consumption has transitioned from a radical idea that no one thought was feasible to a mainstream concept that has now been considered seriously in many states and cities around the country. This transition is due to a combination of scientific evidence, advocacy, and lobbying. Another advancement in the field is the expansion of local food policy councils, which are an important way to bring community members together with local government to promote the social, economic, and environmental health of local and regional food systems. Prior to 2000, there were less than 20 active Councils in the United States. As of 2018, there are over 300.
Public policy offers the potential to reach the entire population of a city, state, or nation in ways that might help reduce the rates, progression, and economic and health impacts of obesity. Research to carefully evaluate the impact of policies and the processes by which they succeed or fail is an important need in the field.
The legislation database tracks federal policies from 2010-2019 and all state policies related to obesity and diet-related diseases in issue areas including access to healthy food, breastfeeding, farms and gardens, school nutrition and physical activity, food assistance programs, marketing/advertising to children, menu and package labeling, and food and beverage taxes.
To address national objectives for improved food security and dietary quality, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) supports useful extramural research in economics aimed at understanding and enhancing the nation’s nutrition assistance programs.
Bringing together the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, two institutions with a long record of research leadership in this area, the Tufts/UConn RIDGE Program will oversee research grants on both major and smaller nutrition assistance programs; support a broad community of researchers applying their expertise to nutrition assistance topics; mentor new investigators in nutrition assistance research; promote the relevance of extramural research for nutrition assistance policy; and seek to enhance communication of results through appropriate technology innovations.