Healthy Eating Research Newsletter
Summer 2021
In This Issue: Program News Universal Free School Meals Latest HER Research │Recent Releases
Program News
Congratulations to the HER NOPREN COVID-19 Food & Nutrition Work Group, and the past leadership team of Sheila Fleischhacker, Erin Hager, and Caroline Dunn. They have been recognized as the 2021 ACPP Health Promotion Policy Group Awardee by the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior!
Spotlight on Universal Free School Meals
Schools play a vital role in promoting children’s health and well-being. Providing healthy school meals for all, also known as universal free school meals, is a policy opportunity to help all children eat healthier.

We developed an infographic that shows 7 key benefits of healthy school meals for all, including benefits to food security, academic performance, and school finances. Using these findings in a recent op-ed, RWJF’s Dr. Richard Besser and Jamie Bussel say that universal free school meals should be made permanent.

Other recent research suggests that to pave the way for more widespread adoption of universal free school meal programs, efforts to disentangle free and reduced price meal data from education funding are needed.

Also check out:
Latest HER Research
Promoting Equitable Expansion of the USDA SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot
The Pilot allows SNAP participants to shop and pay for groceries online, and rapidly expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic. This brief displays how the Pilot currently does not equitably promote healthy food access and nutrition security and offers recommendations for improvement. Learn more.
Strengthening the Public Health Impacts of SNAP
SNAP helps tens of millions of Americans afford food each month, and participation has grown during the COVID-19 pandemic. A new report identifies evidence-based policy changes that have the greatest potential to improve SNAP participants’ nutrition and overall health. Learn more.
SNAP Waivers and Adaptations During the COVID‑19 Pandemic
Based on a survey of state SNAP agencies, this report summarizes key findings and lessons learned from waivers and flexibilities used to preserve equitable access to SNAP during the COVID-19 pandemic and provides policy considerations for the future of SNAP. Learn more.
Preference and Acceptability of WIC Phone Visits
In NYC, most WIC visits were allowed to be conducted virtually during COVID-19. A small study found that the “no-show” rate was reduced by 45% during this time, phone appointments were highly rated, and nearly three-quarters of participants surveyed preferred virtual visits. Learn more.
Promoting Responsive Bottle-Feeding Within WIC
Bottle-fed infants are typically at greater risk for overfeeding and rapid weight gain. This study found that promoting responsive bottle-feeding practices through policy, systems, and environmental strategies could lower risk for rapid weight gain. Learn more.
WIC Online Ordering: Opportunities and Issues to Consider During the COVID‑19 Pandemic
Online ordering with WIC is a model that has the potential to address challenges to in-store WIC food shopping, which have been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more.
The Association of WIC App Usage and WIC Participants’ Redemption Outcomes
Some WIC state agencies are adopting apps that participants can use to check their benefits, set reminders for their clinical appointments, or complete nutrition education. Case studies in West Virginia and Kansas find that WIC apps show promise for improving WIC benefit redemption. Learn more.
School Meals
Strengthening the Impact of USDA’s Child Nutrition Summer Feeding Programs
USDA summer feeding programs have become a critical part of the nutrition safety net during the pandemic. This brief reviews innovative strategies used by summer feeding sites during the pandemic, and how these strategies might strengthen the programs going forward. Learn more.

Recent Releases
Child Opportunity Index
A new interactive mapping application allows users to see how child opportunity is distributed across the U.S. The Child Opportunity Index measures and maps 29 neighborhood conditions that children need to grow up healthy, such as safe housing, good schools, access to healthy food, and more. Learn more.
Health Equity Impacts of COVID-19 Policies
The COVID-19 U.S. State Policy (CUSP) database is helping researchers, policymakers, journalists, and others understand how over 200 state policies implemented during the pandemic are impacting health equity. It can be used to inform rapid-response research and policymaking. Learn more.