E-Newsletter
April 2014


SPOTLIGHT

PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLS

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

CHILDHOOD OBESITY NEWS


SPOTLIGHT

Two new studies underscore hopes, frustrations of revamped school lunches

March 4, 2014, The Washington Post

A new government study indicates that school districts across the nation have struggled to implement the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) revamped nutrition standards for school meals, while a separate, privately funded study shows students are eating more fruits and vegetables because of those same new standards.

Neither study, advocates suggest, offers a full picture yet on how the revamped nutritional standards, part of the Healthy, Hunger–Free Kids Act of 2010, are impacting school cafeterias, student participation in the National School Lunch Program and childhood obesity.

The recently released U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report paints a fairly bleak picture of school districts trying to adapt to the revised USDA nutrition standards, which went into effect during the 2012–2013 academic year for administrators who want the extra federal reimbursement for their lunch programs. Among the changes to the National School Lunch Program, which was established in 1946 and feeds more than 31 million kids annually, is a requirement for students to select either a half cup of fruit or vegetables with their meals. School cafeterias have increased the amount of whole grains, reduced calories, and eliminated the availability of whole and 2 percent milk as well.

According to the GAO report, local and state authorities told researchers the new standards have resulted in more waste, higher food costs, challenges with menu planning, and difficulties in sourcing products that meet the federal portion and calorie requirements. The GAO researchers based their findings on historical data as well as on 2013 surveys and interviews with state child nutrition directors and food service providers at eight school districts across the country. They also observed lunches and spoke with students.

Some of the issues singled out in the GAO report have been resolved, noted Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. For example, Wootan said, the USDA has already eliminated the maximums on meats and grains, which led some students to protest small serving sizes in school cafeterias. But more important, Wootan said, change is never easy. Challenges adopting the new standards were expected.

“Teaching science also is challenging, but that doesn’t mean schools should drop it from the curriculum,” Wootan noted in an e-mail. “And even if schools do a great job teaching science, not all students get passing marks. Schools keep working to help as many students as possible do well and pass.”

“Ultimately when you consider the long-term public health benefits, these initial bumps don’t compare to your savings and impact of improving school nutrition for 31 million kids per day,” Wootan wrote.

But the GAO report notes that nationwide participation in the program has declined by more than 1 million since its peak of 31.8 million students during the 2010–2011 academic year. Participation during the 2012–2013 school year dropped to 30.7 million students, the lowest since the 2006–2007 school year when 30.6 million students participated. The vast majority of the lunch program drop-outs have come from students who pay full price for their meals.

The report points out several factors that may account for the drop: the increased meal price, smaller portions, and a growing lack of interest in the lunch program among paying students. Participation among paying students has been dropping since the 2007–2008 school year.

At the same time, the GAO report notes that participation in the free meal program has increased significantly since the same academic year, or roughly when an economic downturn began in the United States. “[O]ur analysis of USDA’s data shows that the number of students approved for free meals nationally has been increasing at a greater rate since school year 2007–2008, and the number of students required to pay full price for their lunches has been decreasing.”

The decline does not surprise Howell Wechsler, chief executive of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and former director of the Division of Adolescent and School Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “One of the things is getting students used to” more healthful foods, Wechsler says. “It takes a while to get them used to new food…It takes a little bit of trial and error.”

Despite the apparent gloom and doom of the GAO report, its authors do not recommend scaling back the USDA nutritional requirements for the lunch program, unlike other groups. Food service directors and other members of the School Nutrition Association are lobbying Congress to drop a number of requirements, including the one forcing students to select a half cup of fruit or vegetables.

“Some students simply do not want to take a fruit or a vegetable with their meal,” the association notes in its position paper on the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act of 2015. “Forcing students to take a food they don’t want on their tray has led to increased program costs, plate waste, and a decline in student participation.”

There was better news for health–food reformers from researchers with the Harvard School of Public Health, who just published a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The study examined two days in the fall of 2011 at four low–income elementary and middle schools in the Boston area. The next fall, after the new nutritional standards kicked in, the researchers went back to the same schools to measure food selection, consumption, and waste patterns among the 1,030 students who took part in the study.

The results show that students were eating more fruits and vegetables overall, sometimes based on the fact that students were required to select one or the other. For example, the percentage of fruits consumed declined from one year to the next, but the total number of fruits increased because more students selected the food to begin with.

And contrary to what the GAO reported, the Harvard researchers indicated the new nutritional standards were not leading to more food waste. The standards, however, do not seem to be reducing waste, either.

“Although the new school meal standards did not result in increased food waste, the consistently high levels of fruit and vegetable waste are concerning,” the authors wrote. “Students discarded roughly 60 to 75 percent of the vegetables and 40 percent of the fruits on their trays. These levels of waste are similar to those previously found in other urban, low-income schools in Massachusetts, with a different ethnic population. This suggests that the high levels of fruit and vegetable waste have been a continuous problem that warrants serious attention.”

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Original source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/food/wp/2014/03/04/two-new-studies-underscore-hopes-frustrations-of-revamped-school-lunches/

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PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLS

New tool added to NCCOR’s Catalogue of Surveillance Systems assesses restaurant menu items

The Catalogue of Surveillance Systems recently added MenuStat, a new dataset from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. MenuStat provides nutrition information to over 35,000 foods from America’s most popular restaurant chains. The dataset can be used by researchers, practitioners, and others to access key nutritional information, track changes over time, and compare categories by restaurant (e.g., burgers, pizza).

ACCESS MENUSTAT’S PROFILE

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Rudd report shows that children need to be protected from unhealthy food marketing until at least age 14

Children need to be protected from unhealthy food marketing until at least age 14, according to a report from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. The report—funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—cites evidence that children between the ages of 12 and 14 in particular have "unique vulnerability" due to greater independence and higher levels of media consumption.

READ THE REPORT

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Elementary schools increasingly offering walking and biking programs

The prevalence of elementary school participation in Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs increased by 54 percent between 2006–2007 and 2012–2013, according to a research brief from Bridging the Gap. Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the brief’s authors found that nearly one-third of students attending schools with SRTS programs walked or biked to school, compared to approximately 20 percent of students at schools without such programs.

READ THE REPORT

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RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

TV time, feeding habits set babies up for obesity

March 17, 2014, U.S. News & World Report

Many parents feed their babies in ways suspected of boosting the risk of obesity later in life, a new study finds.

Researchers found that of nearly 900 parents of 2-month-olds, many reported at least one habit studies have linked to increased odds of childhood obesity—including putting their baby to sleep with a bottle, "always" trying to get their baby to finish the milk, or offering milk every time the baby cried.

What is more, nearly half reported watching TV half of the time they fed their infant.

"Based on the outcomes of this study, more education is needed for parents, families, and communities," said Kelly Pritchett, an assistant professor at the University of Georgia in Athens and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She was not involved in the study.

Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in teens in the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This puts kids at risk for life–threatening conditions, such as high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels later in life.

In this study, published online March 17 in Pediatrics, only 19 percent of parents said their baby was exclusively breast-fed. Many more—45 percent—used formula only, the researchers.

A number of studies have found that babies who are exclusively breast–fed are less likely to become obese—even when factors like parents' income and education are taken into account.

Those types of studies do not definitively prove a cause-and-effect relationship, however.

Still, "breast-feeding likely lowers the risk of childhood obesity to some extent," said Dr. Eliana Perrin, the lead researcher on the new study and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

One theory is that breast-feeding helps establish hunger and fullness "cues" early in life, noted Pritchett.

Regardless of the specific effects on weight, the American Academy of Pediatrics—a leading group of U.S. pediatricians—and other experts encourage breast-feeding exclusively for about six months. They recommend breast-feeding continue after babies start solid foods— ideally for at least the first year of life.

Most of the parents in the new study (mainly mothers) were on Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor.

Beyond low rates of breast-feeding, Perrin's team found that parents often had other habits that could potentially promote unhealthy weight gain in the long run.

Two-thirds of parents did not follow the academy's recommendations regarding "tummy time"—placing the baby on its belly to play for at least 30 minutes a day.

More than 40 percent of parents put their babies to sleep with bottles, while 20 percent tried feeding every time their baby cried, and 38 percent "always" tried to get their baby to finish the milk.

Perrin said that whether a baby breast– or bottle–feeds, it is important for parents to look for cues that their infant is full.

Some telltale signs are when your baby turns away or seals her lips closed. And while crying can be a sign of hunger, Perrin said, it is not always. So if your baby is crying while you are trying to feed her, she may actually need something else.

And as children grow, Perrin said, "one of the best things" parents can do is to help kids notice when they are truly hungry—instead of turning to food in response to something else.

The extent of TV exposure was a surprise, Pritchett said. A full 90 percent were exposed to TV (meaning it was on in the room where the baby was) for an average of nearly six hours per day. Half of parents said their baby actively watched TV for about a half-hour each day, on average.

The potential consequences of TV in infancy are not clear, but they are a concern, said Perrin, noting there could be lasting effects on kids' attention.

Plus, "it's not the same as parents talking to them and interacting with them," Perrin said. For its part, the academy of pediatricians discourages any TV time before the age of 2 years.

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Original source: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2014/03/17/tv-time-feeding-habits-set-babies-up-for-obesity-study

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Mothers' monitoring of media tied to kids' weight

March 17, 2014, Reuters

By Andrew M. Seaman

Children whose mothers pay close attention to how much time they spend watching TV and playing video games tend to weigh less, according to a new study.

Researchers found that mothers who were more active in their media supervision had children who were thinner at age 7 and who gained less weight over the next few years.

"At this point we can say there is an association but we cannot say exactly why," Stacey Tiberio, the study's lead author from the Oregon Social Learning Center in Eugene, Ore. told Reuters Health.

For example, she said the results could be due to vigilant mothers encouraging their children to be more active instead of letting them watch TV. It could also be that their kids aren't spending as much time being exposed to food advertisements.

The researchers write in JAMA Pediatrics that understanding the role of parental media monitoring is crucial in the development of obesity programs and interventions.

For the new study, they used data from 112 mothers, 103 fathers, and their 213 children.

Parents and children answered questionnaires, were interviewed and received physicals when the kids were ages 5, 7, and 9. The data were collected between 1998-2012.

The researchers found that when mothers reported spending less time monitoring their kids' media consumption, kids tended be heavier at 7 years old.

What's more, less aggressive media monitoring by mothers was tied to more irregular weights among children over the entire study period.

Monitoring by fathers was not tied to changes in weight. Tiberio said that may be because mothers tend to be children's primary caregiver. She also cautioned that these are only the results of one study.

But she said showing a link between TV monitoring and weight in this group is important, because early adolescence tends to be a crucial point for many people weight-wise.

"It's basically a one-way door," Tiberio said. "If you are obese by middle childhood, you have an increased likelihood of staying in that group."

Jennifer Falbe, who was not involved with the new research but has studied screen time and its connection to weight, told Reuters Health the new study supports current recommendations.

"What they found is consistent with the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation to limit children's total screen time to no more than one to two hours per day of high quality content," she said.

Falbe is a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health.

"Parents should keep TV sets and other electronic media out of children's bedrooms," she said. "Research has also indicated that parents' own TV viewing habits can influence their children. In addition to limiting their children's screen time, it's also important to set a good example."

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Original source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/17/us-mothers-monitoring-media-idUSBREA2G1PM20140317  

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Obesity prevention programs might help lower kids' blood pressure

March 19, 2014, Reuters

By Shereen Jegtvig

Programs designed to prevent obesity in children may help lower kids' blood pressure, according to a new review of past studies.

Researchers found that programs targeting both diet and physical activity were more effective than programs that focused on one or the other.

Although it is generally thought of as a disease of middle-aged and elderly people, children can also develop high blood pressure, or hypertension. The American Heart Association recommends that children have yearly blood pressure checks, saying that detecting high blood pressure early will improve a child's health.

Dr. Bonita Falkner told Reuters Health that in the United States, at least 3.5 percent of children and adolescents have hypertension and another 3.5 percent are at risk because of slightly elevated blood pressure.

Falkner studies hypertension at Jefferson Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and was not involved in the new review.

High blood pressure is more common among children who are overweight and obese, so the authors of the review wanted to see if obesity–prevention programs also improved blood pressure in kids.

"Blood pressure during childhood can track into adulthood, and when kids have elevated blood pressure they are more likely to have hypertension when they become adults," coauthor Dr. Youfa Wang told Reuters Health in an email.

Wang, from the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, said the new review is part of a larger comprehensive study on childhood obesity funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The project also includes researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

Wang and his colleagues analyzed data from 23 studies of obesity interventions, including almost 19,000 kids in total. The interventions targeted diet, physical activity, or both and lasted at least one year, or six months for school–based programs.

Studies compared children who received a particular intervention with those who did not. In the majority of studies, children were randomly assigned to go through the obesity–prevention program or to be in a comparison group.

The 23 studies tested a total of 28 different interventions. Most of them were done in schools or in combined school and home settings.

Four of the interventions showed positive effects on both body fat and blood pressure. Eleven suggested a beneficial effect on blood pressure, but no effect on body fat.

Wang and his colleagues then combined the findings of 19 studies that reported on systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) and 18 that reported on diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number).

They found that obesity prevention programs reduced blood pressure among children, by an average of 1.64 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) in systolic blood pressure and 1.44 mm Hg in diastolic blood pressure.

The reduction was more pronounced in the studies that used a combined approach with both diet and physical activity interventions, the authors wrote in Circulation.

"It's not a huge impact, but the totality of the data that they looked at with the analysis of multiple projects seemed to be optimistic," Falkner said.

"So it's hopeful that some impact can be achieved," she said. "No one really lost a lot of weight but at least with the efforts there was some decrease in blood pressure."

Falkner said measuring blood pressure has become a standard part of children's medical care, just like measuring height and weight. But deciding what's normal and what's high blood pressure is more complicated than it is in adults.

"In adults, generally, there is an accepted standard of 140/90 (mm Hg), which is the cut-off point," she said. "If blood pressure goes beyond that it becomes a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases."

For kids, on the other hand, assessments are based on how their blood pressure compares to other children of their age, height, and gender.

Treatment depends on how high the blood pressure is, Falkner said.

"If it's markedly elevated then the doctors generally do some testing to see if there's some underlying cause for the high blood pressure," she said.

She said there are things parents can do that are beneficial for kids' blood pressure, such as helping them lose weight if they are overweight or obese.

Dietary changes such as reducing sodium or following the Dietary Approached to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet could help, she added.

"The DASH diet is kind of like the Mediterranean diet," Falkner said. "It's rich in fruits and vegetables, fiber, and low-fat dairy."

"The idea behind this is that there are multiple nutrients that are beneficial for the cardiovascular system," she said.

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Original source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/19/us-obesity-prevention-idUSBREA2I20U20140319

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Obesity linked to lower grades among teen girls

March 11, 2014, NPR [Shots Blog]

By Linda Poon

Childhood obesity has made it to the forefront of public health issues, both in the United Kingdom and in the United States.

Now researchers at the Universities of Dundee, Strathclyde, Georgia, and Bristol say that not only does obesity affect a child's overall health, but it may also lead to poorer school performance among teenage girls. Among boys, the link is less apparent.

Since the 1990s, the United Kingdom has seen childhood obesity rates grow at an alarming rate, says John Reilly, specialist in the prevention of childhood obesity at the University of Strathclyde, and the study's lead author. Today, nearly a quarter of children in United Kingdom are obese by the time they reach age 12.

Increasingly, researchers in both the United States and the United Kingdom have been interested in how obesity might affect students' academic achievement, but Reilly says few studies have examined the same students over several years, or been able tease out obesity's effects from the influence of social factors, such as socioeconomic status.

The current study analyzed data from nearly 6,000 adolescent students in the United Kingdom, comparing their body mass index from ages 11 to 16 with how well they performed in standardized tests during those years. About 71 percent of the students surveyed were of a "healthy weight" at the start, the researchers said, and about 15 percent were obese.

The academic exams, which tested the students' English, math, and science abilities, were given three times — at ages 11, 13, and 16. After adjusting for factors like socioeconomic status, IQ, and menstruation cycles, the researchers found that, on average, girls who were obese at age 11 performed worse at age 11, 13, and 16 than girls deemed to have a healthy weight. Being obese at 11, the scientists found, was enough "to lower average attainment to a grade D instead of a grade C," by age 16.

The strength of that effect can mean the difference between passing a class and failing it, says Reilly. He and his colleagues focused on age 16, he says, because that's about the age that "determines whether you will do well after 16 — and whether you will go on in college."

The results were published March 11 in the International Journal of Obesity.

Though the study followed British teens, Reilly says the findings are likely also applicable to students in the United States, where the proportion of children between the ages 12 and 19 who are obese grew from 5 percent in 1980 to nearly 21 percent by 2012.

"The similarities between the environment, the culture, [and] school systems between the U.S. and the U.K. are more similar than may be obvious," Reilly says.

"There is nothing about this [study] that is specific to the U.K.," agrees David Katz, the director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center, who wasn't involved in the study.

For example, one 2012 study of more than 6,000 boys and girls in elementary school in the United States also found that obese students performed worse on math tests.

The reason behind such a link, or why it consistently seems more prevalent among young girls, has yet to be determined, Reilly says. But other studies suggest the stigma of obesity and its effect on mental health in young adults may play a large role.

"Girls are much more affected by obesity in terms of mental health and well-being than boys are," he says, adding that stigma's negative effect on things like self-image, self-esteem, and even depression may be lead girls to skip school more often, leading to poorer grades.

"The issue with girls," Katz says, "is that they're much more subject to the peer pressure and ridicule associated with obesity."

The link between obesity and grades likely goes both directions, Katz adds. That is, poor academic achievement also could contribute to obesity.

"If you're rewarded with grades and success, then you're less dependent on fries and cheese doodles, frankly," he says. "And if your [grades] are not good or rewarding, you don't have to be depressed to be frustrated — and for your self-esteem to plummet. And food may be a solution [you turn to]."

But there are a slew of other factors that might also explain the link — including the ways sleep problems in obese teens can impair school performance and brain function, and the findings that peers tend to influence each other's weight.

"We tend to isolate factors," Katz says. "But likely...everything that happens influences everything else that happens." The best strategy, at least in the United States, he says, is to address the root causes of obesity from a cultural level.

"We need to make eating well the default," Katz says. "We need to make physical activity a default. And we need to address ... the hypocrisy of a culture where the first lady is focused on childhood obesity, but we aggressively market french fries and Coca Cola."

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Original source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/03/11/289070502/obesity-linked-to-lower-grades-among-teen-girls

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CHILDHOOD OBESITY NEWS

Companies tap celebrity power for extreme vegetable makeover

March 15, 2014, NPR [The Salt Blog]

By Allison Aubrey

Marketing to kids may have gotten a bad rap in the past, especially since children have been the target of so much junk food advertising.

But it is a new day.

Increasingly, companies are seeing profits pushing ultra-healthy stuff. And they are not using finger–wagging, guilt–ridden, eat–your–veggies–because–they–are–good–for–you messaging.

Birds Eye is taking a page from the playbook of other companies that have had success leveraging the power of teen pop stars: The frozen food giant is turning to Disney.

"We sat in a room, and we said, if we want to get kids to like vegetables, we've got to take a different approach," Mark Schiller, division president of Birds Eye (which is owned by Pinnacle Foods Group) said at this week's Partnership for a Healthier America conference in Washington, D.C.

Birds Eye has already experimented with the teen idol approach to marketing. In 2012 it teamed up with Nickelodeon and Jennette McCurdy, star of the network's popular show iCarly, to jazz up the image of vegetables.

Now, Birds Eye has inked a deal with Disney. The collaboration will begin this summer, and executives say they will turn to top-ranked kid and tween targeted shows and multimedia sites to help give veggies an image makeover. They also plan a healthy living TRYathalon Road Tour, where they are hoping to inspire kids around the country to sample, or TRY new combinations of vegetables.

Schiller says Birds Eye started marketing its frozen fruits and vegetables to kids a few years back. As a result, he says, "we've seen our business grow." He says this past year, when the company stepped up its advertising to kids, sales jumped 8 percent, "which is phenomenal in an industry with very little growth."

And Birds Eye is not alone. Bolthouse Farms has shown that if you use Mountain Dew-style tactics in your advertising, even carrots can be cool. In fact, they have had great success with their extreme baby carrot campaign.

It is not just those who are targeting kids who are having fun with food. Earlier this week we [NPR] introduced you to the Food Porn Index…, which is also the brain child of the folks at Bolthouse Farms.

The Food Porn Index tracks which foods are trending in social media and presents the data in a swirl of food images….The "play factor" is huge, [said] Jeff Dunn, CEO of Bolthouse Farms….

Increasingly, companies are finding that it is easier to sell healthy food.

"There is definitely momentum," says Larry Soler, president of the Partnership for A Healthier America, which for several years has been nudging food companies to commit to more healthful approaches. And there was lots of evidence of this momentum on display at this week's conference.

"Healthy habits are becoming the new norm," Sam Kass, the executive director of first lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign, told me as we toured the booths of vendors hawking health foods at the conference.

He pointed not only to all of the food on display, but also to companies such as Knowledge Universe, owner of Kinder Care daycare centers, which is now serving ultra–healthy family–style meals. As we have reported, this style of eating nudges kids to experiment with new foods and right-size portions.

"We're making progress," Kass says.

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Original source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/03/14/289617079/companies-tap-celebrity-power-for-extreme-vegetable-makeover

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USDA drafting new standards for convenience stores participating in food stamps program

March 20, 2014, WBEZ

By Natalie Moore

The recently enacted federal farm bill has a new provision requiring that convenience stores sell healthier food.

It requires “depth of stock” on the shelves of convenience stores that are in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, commonly known as food stamps.

Depth of stock means more varieties of fruits, vegetables, grains, and meats.

“Our goal is really primarily to make sure SNAP households or low–income households or people with limited income have access to healthy foods,” said Kevin Concannon, under secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Concannon said 82 percent of SNAP benefits are redeemed at supermarkets or big-box stores. The challenges are the small stores often in low–income neighborhoods. Last year USDA held hearings around the nation about policy changes at convenience stores.

Food access is a big issue in Chicago food deserts. Gas stations, liquor stores, dollar stores, and corner stores are the most common grocers. They accept food stamps, but these retailers are typically repositories for junk food. And a common complaint has been that the USDA food stamp standards are too low and those low standards are not enforced.

“It’s too minimal, frankly,” Concannon said.

The USDA has to iron out the regulations, but officials want the new rules to be in place by the end of the year. Once they are released, there will be a comment period before the changes take effect.

Concannon said USDA will not object if stores drop out of the program once the stricter regulations are in place. But food stamps are a boon for retailers. Across the country SNAP provides $80 billion in food stamp benefits. In Chicago, researcher Mari Gallagher said the Roseland community, a food desert, has 87 stores that take food stamps, earning on average $5,000 a week.

Only two of those Roseland stores are “mainstream,” which means they stock enough options to support a healthy diet on a regular basis. The rest were “fringe” stores that had limited food choices and specialized in high–fat and high–salt junk food.

Gallagher said the federal changes are necessary.

“I’m super excited about how fringe stores could improve and serve the community in the future and help their own bottom line,” Gallagher said. “Being in SNAP is not an inherent right. It’s a privilege they need to learn.”

But she wants the USDA to put in safeguards for enforcement.

“People might not be worried about tougher rules because who’s going to enforce them?” Gallagher suggests that the federal government partner with local public health authorities to ensure compliance.

Shamar Hemphill, an organizer with Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), agrees about accountability. IMAN’s approach to help eliminate food deserts is to not wait for a big-box store to come, but to improve existing corner stores where many people shop.

Muslim Run is the name of the campaign and it has expanded to four stores. Organizers have had success in getting fresh produce not only stocked but sold.

Hemphill said he looks forward to the new federal regulations but change “won’t happen unless the residents push and demand that these stores operate and carry these staple foods.”

Frank Hafeez manages Halsted Grocery on 71st Street. The liquor-convenience store in Englewood has a tray of lemons, oranges, grapes, and wilted green bell peppers. Boxes of potatoes and onions are stacked by the door.

“I would like to know more,” Hafeez said of the federal regulations. “We carry what customers request.”…

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Original source: http://www.wbez.org/news/usda-crack-down-convenience-stores-accept-food-stamps-109895

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WHO guidance: Cut daily sugar intake to less than 5 percent of daily food intake

March 5, 2014, Reuters

Sugar should account for less than 5 percent of what people eat each day if they are to avoid health risks such as weight gain and tooth decay linked to excessively sugary diets, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on March 5.

Issuing new draft sugar guidelines, the United Nations health agency said its recommendations were based on "the totality of evidence regarding the relationship between free sugars intake and body weight and dental caries."

Free sugars include monosaccharides and disaccharides that are added to foods by manufacturers, cooks or consumers, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices, and fruit concentrates.

"WHO recommends reduced intake of free sugars throughout the life-course," the agency said in a statement.

It said the 5 percent level should be a target for people to aim for—calling it a "conditional recommendation"—but also reiterated a "strong recommendation" that sugar should account for no more that 10 percent of total energy intake.

"There is increasing concern that consumption of free sugars—particularly in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages—increases overall energy intake and may reduce the intake of foods containing more nutritionally adequate calories," the WHO statement said.

This can lead "to an unhealthy diet, weight gain, and increased risk of non-communicable diseases (such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer)."

Five percent of total energy intake is equivalent to around 25 grams (around 6 teaspoons) of sugar per day for an adult of normal body mass index.

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Original source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/05/health-sugar-who-idUSL6N0M22D220140305

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