April 2014 Digest Archive

Rudd ‘Roots Parents Offers New Tools for Parent Advocates  

New tools have been added to the Rudd Center’s parent advocate website, Rudd 'Roots Parents, which is a resource for parent advocates who are passionate about supporting kids with a healthy school environment. 

The website offers easy-to-use tools, information, and research to address weight bias and weight-based bullying, improve the nutritional quality of school food, and eliminate unhealthy food and beverage marketing in schools.

New tools include: 

• An interactive tool that organizes advocacy resources for parents by type, topic, and scope, and includes Rudd Center resources, links to allied organizations, and evidence for action. 

• A section that provides examples of food marketing in schools and suggestions for advocacy actions. 

• A section that teaches parents about weight bias and bullying at schools, at home, in the media, and at the doctor’s office.  

• A Take Action! section that shows advocates current initiatives parents can support, and connects them to other advocates via our social media networks. 

Rudd ‘Roots Parents was first launched in 2012 as a tool to support the grassroots efforts of parent advocates to make school food healthier, and has since grown to incorporate the issues of food marketing and weight-based bullying in schools.  

Rudd ‘Roots recently hosted a tweet chat on how advocates can effectively use school wellness policies to support a healthy, nurturing learning environment for kids. Panelists included Bettina Siegel of the Lunch Tray, Hanna Jones of Center for Science in the Public Interest, and Rebecca Puhl of the Rudd Center - all leading experts on improving the school environment. 

Voices for Healthy Kids Launches Toolkit to Reduce Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption

Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and American Heart Association, has released a toolkit entitled "Don't Sugarcoat Our Future" to guide coalitions which are working to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

The toolkit offers fact sheets, sample materials, and guidance on how to build, engage, and mobilize a social change movement in states and communities to reduce consumption of sugary beverages and, more specifically, to promote pricing strategies that will discourage consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. 

"Don’t Sugarcoat Our Future" was released with a collection of parallel toolkits on other social change strategies to help kids live more active and healthful lives. 

To access the toolkit, click here

Reserve a Spot at the National Soda Summit  

The Center for Science in the Public Interest will host the 2nd National Soda Summit on June 4-5, 2014, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Participants, including advocates, researchers, and state and local officials, will learn the latest on taxes, warning labels, portion sizes, procurement policies, and marketing reform efforts across the country.

Click here for more information and to register.

Food Marketing Targets Children in Schools 

Food companies spend almost $150 million per year to market to children in school buildings, exceeded only by their spending on television advertising and premiums, according to a report by the Federal Trade Commission.

Research shows that in addition to corporate-sponsored programs, exclusive vending contracts, and branded foods, the food companies sponsor fundraisers, offer reward programs to encourage family purchases of their products, and provide "free" branded education materials to schools.

According to Jennifer Harris, PhD, MBA, Rudd Center’s Director of Marketing Initiatives, who recently blogged in Psychology Today, these programs appear to be philanthropic in nature but are nothing more than sophisticated, low-cost marketing tools designed to reach a captive audience of children in a place they spend time in every day – their schools.

Dr. Harris asserted the need for increased understanding of the potential costs of this marketing on children’s health and well-being – and a public discussion of whether the financial benefits from these arrangements outweigh the costs.

She also applauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s newly proposed rule that would allow marketing in schools only for foods and beverages that meet the new "Smart Snacks" nutrition standards for foods that can be sold outside the school lunch program.

To express your support for the USDA rules and for more information about food marketing in schools and ways you can address unhealthy food marketing in your own children’s schools visit Rudd ‘Roots Parents and PreventObesity.net

Most Schools Meet New Federal Requirement to Provide Drinking Water at Lunch 

Drinking Water

Most schools meet the new USDA drinking water mandate but more steps are needed to encourage consumption, according to a study by Bridging the Gap that was recently published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Drinking water is important for good health and linked with cognitive benefits, but most children do not meet daily recommendations for water intake, according to the authors.  

Starting in the 2011-2012 school year, schools participating in the federally-funded National School Lunch program were required to provide students with access to free drinking water during school meals, in the location where meals are served.

Researchers examined compliance with the new requirement as well as perceptions about drinking fountain cleanliness and water quality.

In 2011-2012, 86% of elementary, 87% of middle, and 89% of high school students attended schools that reported meeting the drinking water requirement. However, researchers also found that there were concerns over the cleanliness and water quality.

The authors asserted that since the federal drinking water requirement is unfunded, schools may need additional resources to address these concerns. Collaboration among district and school level staff, including dietitians, food service staff, wellness councils, nurses, and teachers is key to improving access.  

Resource for Interactive Health Education Curriculum

KickinNutrition.TV (KNTV) is a new digital health, nutrition, and wellness interactive curriculum for tweens/teens (ages 8-14) and their families that has just been launched by KidsCOOK Productions and Ingredients for Education/Filmmaker's Collaborative.

KNTV includes peer-taught and teacher-moderated video lessons, interactive health games, an incentive-based badging system, and additional resources to integrate health education into any classroom. KNTV’s multimedia program provides students with the skills, knowledge, and motivation to overcome obstacles to eating better and being physically active.

According to Natasha Lance Rogoff, President of IFE and Executive Producer of KNTV, who recently presented the online curriculum to the Rudd Center, "our goal for this resource is to harness technology to foster lifelong healthy habits, leadership, and self-efficacy at a time when this intervention can greatly influence childhood development in a positive direction."

"This is great resource for schools as it teaches kids about health in an engaging and entertaining way while also acknowledging the unhealthy food environment," according to Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Rudd Center Director.

Videos included in the curriculum can be viewed here.  

Public Health Advocates Urge Lebron James to End his Partnership with McDonald's 

Public health organizations, including the Rudd Center, recently co-signed a letter to NBA player, Lebron James, urging him to end his affiliation with McDonald’s.

The letter, written by Corporate Accountability International, informs James that his association with McDonald’s sends the wrong message to children.

"As a world-class athlete, NBA champion and Olympian, you have vast influence with millions of youth," wrote the authors. "They admire your achievements and want to strive for greatness because of your example. But by promoting McDonald’s through social media, television commercials and the All-American Game, you are being used by this corporation to hook children on a lifetime of junk food and diet-related disease."

The letter can be viewed and signed here.  

Just Published by the Rudd Center

Weight Discrimination: Public Supports Disability and Civil Rights Legal Protection 


Public support for policies that prohibit weight discrimination and provide disability and civil rights protection for obese individuals has grown in the past few years, according to a study published by the Rudd Center in the journal Obesity

Researchers surveyed more than 1,000 people in 2011, 2012, and 2013 to assess their support for proposed legislation that would prohibit weight discrimination, extend disability protection for individuals with obesity, and add body weight as a protected class under federal civil rights statutes.

Support for laws prohibiting weight discrimination was consistent across all three years, with at least 75% of those surveyed in favor of laws that would make it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees based on their weight.

Furthermore, support for extending disability protections for individuals with obesity grew from 62% in 2011 to 69% in 2013. Support for adding body weight as a protected class under civil rights laws grew from 70% to 76% in the same time period.

"The trends we observed have important implications for existing and future policy initiatives," said Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Rudd Center Deputy Director and co-author of the study. "Legislation could reduce inequities for millions of Americans who are vulnerable to unfair treatment because of their weight, and improve their quality of life."

Currently, there are no federal laws making it illegal to discriminate against a person based on his or her weight. Michigan is the only state that has a law preventing discrimination on this basis. In 2013, Massachusetts proposed a law to prohibit weight discrimination.

"Legal measures to prohibit weight discrimination could help rectify employment inequalities, facilitate public health efforts to improve the health and well-being of individuals with obesity, and reduce the social acceptability of weight prejudice," Puhl explained.

The paper was co-authored by the Rudd Center’s Young Suh, MS, Research Associate, Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Deputy Director; Sai Liu, MPH, Biostatistician; and Frances Fleming Milici, PhD, Research Associate.

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The Rudd Center’s extensive library of podcasts is available for download on iTunes.