March 2016 Newsletter

Rudd Center Recent Publications

New Study Shows School Breakfasts Support Healthy Weight

Middle school students who eat breakfast at school - even if they have already had breakfast at home - are less likely to be overweight or obese than students who skip breakfast, according to a study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut and the Community Alliance for Research and Engagement (CARE) at Yale School of Public Health. The findings of the study, published March 17 in Pediatric Obesity, provide support for policy efforts to increase daily school breakfast consumption. "When it comes to the relationship between school breakfast and body weight, our study suggests that two breakfasts are better than none," said study author and UConn Rudd Center Director Marlene Schwartz.

Rudd Center in the News

The Washington Post gave prominent coverage to our new study on school breakfast-eating patterns in a March 17 article by national education reporter Emma Brown: "Kids who eat two breakfasts are less likely to be overweight than those who eat none." Brown noted that advocates, including the Obama administration, see free meals at school as a critical way to fight hunger among millions of American children who live in poverty. Dr. Schwartz "emphasized that free school breakfasts must meet stringent federal nutrition guidelines - and that might be one important reason why double-breakfast eaters aren't gaining weight more quickly than other students."

Politico, HealthDay, U.S. News & World Report, The Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News, UConn Today, United Press International, and more than 50 NPR affiliates were among the dozens of media outlets that reported on our study on school breakfasts. We thank the Salud Today blog for featuring our study.

Dr. Schwartz was interviewed by WNPR's "Where We Live" host John Dankosky for a March 28 radio segment about the school breakfast study.

The CT Health I-Team published a comprehensive piece on March 21 on a new policy brief prepared for the Child Health and Development Institute of CT, as part of a grant to the Rudd Center. It recommends ways to promote healthy weight and prevent obesity in children by taking action from birth to two years old. Connecticut by the numbers also carried an article on the new policy brief.

Jennifer Harris, the Rudd Center's Director of Marketing Initiatives, commented on excessive sugar in breakfast cereals in a story March 18 in the Deseret News, a leading Utah newspaper. The article, "Breakfast in a box: The debate over cereal's health benefits," subsequently appeared in more than 120 media outlets across the country. The cereal manufacturers' position "is that their products are healthy, but I think it's going to be harder for them to make that claim now that the USDA has come out with new guidelines for sugar consumption," Harris said in the article.

The Daily Beast published a hard-hitting article March 12, "How the Fitness Industry Gets Rich Doing Nothing," quoting UConn Rudd Center Deputy Director Rebecca Puhl. She noted that her research suggests "that focusing on appearance is not the way to go. Instead the messages should focus on promoting healthy eating and exercise behaviors for all individuals, regardless of their body size or weight."

Lifezette/Healthzette, a digital news site with stories on all aspects of life, cited Dr. Puhl's previous research concluding that stigmatization and shame about weight can result in weight gain as well as unhealthy eating patterns, binging and psychological problems. The March 16 article was headlined: Memo to Boss: Stop Fat-Shaming Employees - Enough with all these public weight-loss contests on the job!

Dr. Puhl's research on the prevalence of weight-based bullying among children was cited in a March 17 Huffpost Parents story about a new children's picture book, "Ella's Tummy," that aims to "address these issues early, in a way that can be understood by the very young."

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has proposed a three-cents-per-ounce city tax on sugary drinks. Dr. Schwartz commented in a March 6, article, "Soft Drinks, Hard Lobbying," and Dr. Harris was quoted in a March 26 Philadelphia Tribune piece that focused on the heavy marketing of sugary drinks to African Americans, "Blacks and sugar-sweetened drinks."

What's Simmering With Our Friends 

Healthy Eating Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, issued a report in March on food-related school fundraisers and changes to the school food environment over the past decade. This new Issue brief, School Fundraisers: Positive Changes in Foods Sold, but Room for Improvement Remains, notes that, "Many other options exist for schools to generate revenue in ways that promote - rather than diminish - children's health, and many schools appear to be engaging in such practices. Nevertheless," the brief concludes, "much room remains for broader implementation of healthier fundraising practices across the nation."

A new short film, Berkeley vs. Big Soda, by the Ecology Center, "tells the story of how a community stood up for children's health against one of the world's most powerful industries - and won. In November 2014, Berkeley, CA, became the first U.S. city to pass a law taxing soda and other sugary drinks." Now other cities and states, including Philadelphia, are considering soda tax measures. As the Ecology Center explains, "The film features footage from the campaign and voices from the diverse coalition that formed to fight Big Soda."

Healthy Food America, a new Seattle-based non-profit organization, published its first edition of Research Watch, described by founder Jim Krieger as a monthly summary of key findings on the impacts of sugar on health, and what strategies are likely to work to reduce excessive sugar consumption. You can sign up to receive future editions.

News to Chew On
Kenney launches campaign for proposed soda tax
The Huffington Post
How To Cut Down On Added Sugar In Your Life
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Proposed Food Stamp Rule Requires Healthier Foods at Retailers
The Hill (blog)
Do candidates care about our health or just how much it costs?
Reuters Health
Kids who skip lunch are missing out on essential nutrients