USDA’s final rule for Local School Wellness Policies

Perfectly timed with the beginning on a new school year The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) just released its final rule for Local School Wellness Policies. Each school districts participating in federal nutrition programs such as the National School Lunch or Breakfast Programs are required to have a Local School Wellness Policy that addresses goals for nutrition promotion and education, physical activity, and other school-based activities that promote student wellness and rely on evidence-based strategies. Districts must fully comply with the requirements of the final rule by June 30, 2017.

The rules will make great strides to promote integrity across the school meals programs. Here are a few highlights to be aware of:

  • School districts are now required to allow certain stakeholders (including: parents, students, school food staff, physical education teachers, school health professionals, the school board, school administrators, and members of the general public) to participate in the development, implementation, and periodic review and update of the local school wellness policy.
  • The new rule will disallow the marketing of unhealthy foods in schools. This includes à la carte items sold in the cafeteria, through school stores, vending machines, or many on-campus fundraisers.
  • Local school wellness policy must include nutritional guidelines standards for all foods being sold and available to students on campus.
  • Local school wellness policies must be made available to the public on at least an annual basis.

In addition to the Local School Wellness Policy ruling, USDA also release of the final rules for Nutrition Standards for All Foods Sold in School (Smart Snacks), Community Eligibility Provision, and Administrative Reviews;

Establishing a firm platform for building on the progress schools across the country have made to improved nutritional quality of meals served in schools. CWN and our sister program California Project LEAN have expertise available to guide your team to effectively work with school districts, wellness committees, parents and youth to facilitate these changes to become compliant with the new federal rules. For more information please contact us at

CWN Director of Research and Evaluation demonstrates effectiveness of SNAP-Ed in Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior

Sharon Sugerman, Director of Research and Evaluation at the Center for Wellness and Nutrition, recently co-authored an article published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB) for the sixth time, making her a Silver Level Author of JNEB. This latest article shares the results of an evaluation which examined among low-income mothers the consumption of fruits and vegetables, high-fat foods, and sugar-sweetened beverages and overall diet quality in relation to levels of reach of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-Ed) interventions across 2,907 California census tracts. Results showed that mothers from high SNAP-Ed reach census tracts ate more cups of fruits and vegetables, consumed fewer calories from high-fat foods, and drank fewer cups of sugar-sweetened beverages. The abstract is available here.


Los Angeles Inspires Healthy Communities Using Youth-led Participatory Action Research

Engaging youth using Youth-led Participatory Action Research (YPAR) is a growing public health approach to address nutrition and obesity-related illnesses, especially among United States Department of Agriculture Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education program (SNAP-Ed) implementing agencies. In California, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health provided funding to community-based organizations to conduct four youth-led nutrition education and obesity prevention projects, each using a youth-led participatory action research framework. The projects focused on increasing access to and consumption of fruits and vegetables, increasing daily physical activity opportunities, and decreasing consumption of sugary beverages.

The Public Health Institute’s Center for Wellness and Nutrition (CWN) worked in partnership with Converge Research and Training to examine project implementation, successes, and challenges to inform and refine future youth engagement programs for Los Angeles County.

A variety of research methods were used to assess the YPAR projects, including youth focus groups, key informant interviews, and organizational assessments. CWN discovered factors that contributed to successful implementation of the YPAR framework, innovative use of the framework, and how the framework contributed to improving opportunities to be healthy at the individual, family, school, organizational, and community levels.

This newest report in the series highlights the collective impact and comprehensive approach of the YPAR projects in Los Angeles County. These projects strategically connecting schools with their larger communities and leverages genuine youth and adult partnerships in supporting youth voice for healthy community change, in communities that need it the most.

Click here to view the report. 

Enhancing Local Food Systems in the Placer County Region

In northern California, the month of May marks the beginning of the season of abundance. Cultivated fields spring to life with succulent strawberries, peas, and asparagus. Tomatoes and peppers make huge gains in their vegetative growth. Stone fruits begin to softly ripen. Our local farmers ramp up their operations to keep up with harvesting their booming crops and prepare their products for market. Most seasonal farmers’ markets begin in May or early June when farmer vendors have a nice selection of items to make available to eager shoppers. Anyone who has shopped at a farmers’ market can attest to the distinct difference in the experience compared to shopping at a traditional grocery store. The chance to speak to the person who has grown the food you will eat, the hustle and bustle of shoppers, the relaxed atmosphere, and the beautiful displays of incredibly fresh food all lend to the unique experience. Not to mention that purchasing produce at farmers’ markets can oftentimes be less expensive than shopping at the grocery store.

Unfortunately, many local residents have historically been excluded from partaking in the benefits and delights of farmers’ market shopping because they rely heavily on government nutrition assistance benefits, which farmers’ markets may not accept. The Center for Wellness and Nutrition is proud to be a part of changing this paradigm. Through a synergy of funding from the Placer Get Fresh Project and the Farmers’ Market SNAP Support Grant, CWN staff is able to facilitate acceptance of SNAP benefits at two farmers’ markets in the region:

Auburn DeWitt Center Farmers’ Market

Richards Dr. at B Ave.

Auburn, CA 95603

Wednesdays, 10am – 1pm

June – October


Truckee River Regional Park Farmers’ Market

10500 Brockaway Road

Truckee, CA 96161

Tuesdays, 8am – 1pm

May 24 – October


These efforts will improve SNAP shoppers’ access to fresh and healthy foods as well as expand the customer base for farmer vendors. Our team will be joined by staff from the Placer Food Bank to conduct CalFresh (California’s name for SNAP) eligibility screening, to bring even more benefits to shoppers and farmers. If you work with SNAP-eligible populations in the Placer County region, please help spread the word about the opportunity to purchase fresh, locally grown produce at these farmers’ markets. Please contact for more information.

PHI Embarks on New Program Area Focusing on Child Trauma

The Public Health Institute (PHI) is expanding its role in the area of child trauma and the long-term effects of Adverse Child Experiences (ACES) on chronic disease later in life. Research shows that these early adversities negatively impact health behaviors and, subsequently, worsen health outcomes in adulthood. Currently, we are working in the rural north of California to establish a collaborative comprised of multiple counties. The collaborative will identify the training and technical assistance needed to institute a platform of services and evidence-based interventions. These services could then be used through multiple channels within county organizations and their community partners. For more information, please contact Lisa Tadlock at

Free Webinar: 3 Perspectives for Healthy Policy and Practice Change in the School Environment

Join us for a free webinar on Tuesday, May 17th, 2016 at 10:00-11:30 am.

Catalysts for Change: 3 Perspectives for Healthy Policy and Practice Change in the School Environment webinar

To advance school wellness policies and practices takes time, guts, and vision for real efforts to take place. The Public Health Institute’s (PHI) Center for Wellness and Nutrition and California Project LEAN are pleased to invite you to participate in learning from three school stakeholders– an adult ally working with youth, a parent leader, and a district assistant superintendent– about their efforts to advance successful school wellness policy and practices in their district. Guest presenters include:

  • Raymond Diaz, Senior Program Coordinator, National Health Foundation
  • Jennifer Lux, Parent, Caleb Greenwood Wellness Committee Chairperson, Coordinated School Health Council Committee Member, Sacramento City Unified School District
  • Sandon Schwartz, Assistant Superintendent of Administration & Support Services, Madera Unified School District

Participants will be able to:

  • Describe the 3 various stakeholders’ perspectives and the types of partnerships needed to advance school wellness policy and practices.
  • List at least 2 strategies that support realistic district and/or school site wellness activities.
  • Recognize the importance to have clear goals and outcomes to achieve a common goal, especially when related to creating healthier school environments.

Register for this free webinar here:

For more information, please contact

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Free Webinar: Promotional Strategies for Healthy Retail Programs


Working with retailers to provide shoppers with adequate access to healthy foods is an integral part of public health efforts to prevent obesity, reduce certain chronic diseases, and enhance community vibrancy. Join us for a free webinar on how public health professionals can work with food retailers, from large chain grocery stores to corner markets, to increase shoppers’ access to and consumption of fruits and vegetables. In this webinar we will:

  • share best practices for recruiting retailers to participate in your program
  • explore available tools, marketing and promotion efforts and how store staff can further these efforts
  • highlight emerging healthy retail strategies within SNAP-Ed programming

Wednesday, April 20th, 10:00 – 11:30 AM (PDT)

Register for this free webinar here.

Engage with the CWN LinkedIn page and win a $100 Amazon gift card!

The Center for Wellness and Nutrition (CWN) is happy to announce that we will be hosting a promotional contest via LinkedIn. One lucky winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card! The more engaged you are with the CWN’s LinkedIn page, the greater your chances of winning. Participants can earn an entry into the raffle by:

  1. Following us on LinkedIn
  2. Liking, sharing, or commenting on a current post

You can earn an additional entry for every like, share and comment. It’s that simple! Contest ends April 15, 2016. View official LinkedIn contest rules.

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ENACT Day March 30th

Californians, join our partners at ENACT Day on March 30th! This annual event brings community members and advocates from all over California together in Sacramento to educate their state representatives and advocate for nutrition and physical activity legislation. All you need is your passion, and an optional donation. Can’t travel to Sacramento? Register for Virtual ENACT Day! Event registration and details here.


SNAP-Ed Toolkit Features Healthy Retail Recognition Pilot

In January the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service released the latest update of SNAP-Ed Strategies & Interventions: An Obesity Prevention Toolkit for States, commonly known as the SNAP-Ed Toolkit. The Toolkit is designed to help SNAP-Ed implementing agencies identify evidence-based and emerging intervention programs and strategies to help low-resource residents achieve healthy lifestyles and prevent certain chronic diseases. Choosing to implement evidence-based and emerging interventions ensures the greatest return on investment of public funds.

The Center for Wellness and Nutrition (CWN) is proud to announce that the Healthy Retail Recognition Pilot is featured as an emerging intervention in the new SNAP-Ed Toolkit. CWN staff developed and implemented the pilot through a contract with the California Department of Public Health in partnership with the local health departments of Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties. The pilot explored the effectiveness of a program to motivate and enable small, independent retail stores in low-income areas to identify and achieve changes to their store that increase the community’s access to healthy food. Participating retailers would receive a program decal to provide recognition to the business owners and serve as a cue for consumers to easily identify stores that stock healthier foods and beverages.

CWN staff is available to answer any questions you may have about the pilot and can even provide assistance in implementing a Healthy Retail Recognition Program in your communities. For more information, contact