Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity
The Rudd Center Health Digest

May 2010

Watch Mark Bittman at the Rudd Center


The Rudd Center was pleased to host Mark Bittman on March 31 as part of our Spring Seminar Series. Bittman is the author of How to Cook Everything and Food Matters, a New York Times columnist, and a television host. His seminar, Future of Food, is available for viewing on YouTube. He also recorded special video podcasts with Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director: Soda and Soda Taxes and Changing Our Thinking About Food.

Congressional Lobbying Disclosure Database Launched

In 2009, the American Beverage Association spent $19,100,000 on congressional lobbying. Their spending increased from a total of less than $1 million in 2008, coinciding with a rise in sugar-sweetened beverage tax proposals during this same time period. To highlight the extent to which the food industry exerts influence on federal legislation, the Rudd Center has created a Congressional Lobbying web page, where information on food industry lobbying activities for the 2009 fiscal year has been compiled in a user-friendly database, which will be updated quarterly.

“Nowhere is the powerful influence of industry on legislation more evident than in the dollars spent lobbying,” said Roberta R. Friedman, ScM, Director of Public Policy at the Rudd Center. “This information should be easily accessible, and we have created a tool for anyone who wants to find details of lobbying and legislative activity related to food policy and obesity.”

According to the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, “All persons or entities must disclose the identity and extent of the efforts of paid lobbyists to influence federal officials in the conduct of government actions.” Lobbyists and lobbying firms must file quarterly activity reports and semiannual contribution reports with the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House, which are available to the public online. The Rudd Center has launched its own congressional lobbying database to simplify the process of reviewing the food industry's filings. 

White House Meeting on Childhood Obesity

Rudd Center Director Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, attended a special White House meeting on childhood obesity held on April 9. First Lady Michelle Obama began the meeting with a discussion of the administration’s Let’s Move program and was followed by several cabinet secretaries who spoke of the importance of government coordination of efforts across agencies. The White House created a Task Force on Childhood Obesity consisting of the heads of many government agencies. The task force will release a report in upcoming months.

Rudd Center Seminar Series

The Spring Seminar Series has finished for the semester. Speakers included Mark Bittman, author, New York Times columnist, and television host; and Thomas Wadden from University of Pennsylvania, an expert in treating obesity. Stay tuned for an announcement in August about the exciting lineup of Fall Seminar Series speakers who will present their work as it relates to topics of obesity, weight bias, and food policy.

Visit the Seminar Series page to listen to speakers' podcasts and view PowerPoint slides and notes. Sign up to receive weekly E-mail updates from the Rudd Center detailing upcoming seminars and schedule changes.

Action for Healthy Kids and the Rudd Center Team Up for Webinar

The Rudd Center and Action for Healthy Kids will host a webinar on Friday, May 14, 1:00 – 2:15 pm ET to discuss the Wellness School Assessment Tool (WellSAT). WellSAT assesses the comprehensiveness and strength of school districts’ local wellness policies in the areas of nutrition education and promotion, physical activity/physical education, school meals, and competitive foods. Education and public health professionals, school wellness coordinators, district/school health advisory council members, and other wellness champions would benefit from examining their own district’s policies.

Strong and comprehensive local wellness policies increase the likelihood that positive changes to the nutrition and physical activity environments will be sustained long-term. By seeing the score of their district’s policy, school staff, parents, and students can advocate more effectively for more specific and directive language on paper, and more energy and action when putting that policy into practice.

Santa Clara County Bans Children's Toys in Unhealthy Meals

Supervisors in California's Santa Clara County approved the nation's first ordinance to prevent offering toys to lure children to restaurant meals laden with fat, sugar, and calories.

Although the law will not affect many restaurants, lawmakers hope their vote will create a ripple effect in cities, other counties, and the state, just as the county helped to lead the way on requiring fast-food chains to post calorie counts on menus.


Too Unfit to Fight?

A quarter of young Americans are too overweight to join the U.S. military, according to Mission: Readiness, Military Leaders for Kids, a nonprofit group of retired military leaders. Advocating for stricter standards in the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, the group sees it as a way to improve health and national security.

Just Published by the Rudd Center: First Amendment Not a Barrier to FTC Regulation of TV Food Marketing to Young Children

Marketing directed at young children, who cannot comprehend its commercial context and persuasive intent, may be classified as deceptive and misleading and thus not protected by the First Amendment, according a new paper in the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics. The paper, “Television Food Marketing to Children Revisited: The Federal Trade Commission Has the Constitutional and Statutory Authority to Regulate,” was written by Jennifer L. Pomeranz, JD, MPH, Rudd Center Director of Legal Initiatives. Its assertion, coupled with the overall political, scientific, and legal climate, suggests the time has arrived to reevaluate the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to regulate television food marketing to children.

Rudd Center Spotlight: Melina Shannon-DiPietro

Shannon-DiPietroMelina Shannon-DiPietro is Executive Director of the Yale Sustainable Food Project, where she first led a sustainable pilot program in Yale’s dining halls; broke ground in the creation of the Yale Farm, a one-acre organic teaching garden on campus that welcomes thousands of visitors each year; and leads an ambitious program of extracurricular and academic opportunities for students and the New Haven community to learn about food, agriculture, and the environment. Under her direction, the Project has emerged as one of the nation’s foremost leaders on innovative and creative educational approaches to these issues.

Shannon-DiPietro believes that gathering people around shared food, shared work, and shared inquiry is an essential, enjoyable force for change: “Our work is to prepare students — through hands-on experience, rigorous study, and connection to meaningful opportunities — for leadership on food, agriculture, and the environment. We want to spark students’ curiosity and inspire a lifetime commitment to integrating their everyday experience with food and hands-on experience with agriculture at the Yale Farm with their intellectual development.”

She earned her BA in Social Studies from Harvard University and has farmed in Sicily and Maine. She acts as consultant to foundations, nonprofit organizations, and most recently the USDA’s People’s Garden Initiative, and has advised the development of model gardens at the 2008 Venice Biennale and the 2005 Smithsonian Folk Life Festival.

Rudd Center on Your Screen

Tune in to CNBC on Tuesday, May 18 to see Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director, featured on the original documentary One Nation, Overweight. The episode, airing at 10:00 pm ET/PT, highlights the costs of the obesity epidemic on our healthcare system and individuals' lives.

The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts

Mark Bittman
Author, New York Times Columnist, Television Host

Susan T. Mayne, PhD
Professor of Epidemiology and Division Head, Chronic Disease Epidemiology, Yale School of Public Health; Associate Director, Yale Cancer Center

S. Bryn Austin, ScD
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, Children’s Hospital Boston; Harvard Medical School; Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of Public Health

Patricia Crawford, DrPH, RD
Director, Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health; Adjunct Professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology, School of Public Health; University of California, Berkeley

Thomas A. Wadden, PhD
Professor of Psychology, School of Medicine; Director, Center for Weight and Eating Disorders; University of Pennsylvania

Our collection of podcasts is available for download on iTunes U, under the Yale University Health & Medicine — Nutrition & Obesity section, or can be subscribed to through an RSS Feed that will automatically update when new content is released. Podcasts can be listened to on a computer or downloaded to a music player.

Front Burner News

'Fatism' Is Growing Among Health Professionals

Prejudice toward obese people is rife among trainee health professionals, but can be modified, according to new research from Yale University and the Universities of Manchester and Hawaii. Anti-fat prejudice among health professionals was found to be high in western nations, often exceeding that found within the general population. Read more.

Soda Tax Bottom Line

Hefty taxes on soda would likely reduce soft drink consumption and prevent childhood obesity, according to research by the Rand Corporation published online in the journal Health Affairs. Read more.

Bringing Fresh Food to Underserved Communities

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), and other lawmakers introduced the Healthy Food Financing Initiative. With food insecurity and obesity rates on the rise, the new legislation would invest $1 billion through loans and grants to help build about 2,100 new grocery stores in high-need areas across the country. Read more.

Don't Let Labels Fool You


It's a jungle out there in the grocery aisles, a thicket of products claiming healthy this and nutritious that. Never before have food packages displayed so many health claims in the U.S., according to a recent commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Read more.

Harvard Docs to Insurance Companies: Drop the Big Macs

Researchers at the Cambridge Health Alliance, which is associated with the Harvard Medical School, said life and health insurers should not invest in fast-food companies. The researchers cited the downside of fast food — associations with obesity and other health problems, heavy marketing to children, and the chains’ environmental impact. Read more.

Washington House Approves Soda Tax

The House of Representatives in Washington state voted to boost a host of taxes, including one on soda. The bill heads to the state Senate. The two-cent tax per 12-ounce can or bottle of soda would raise about $33.5 million annually. Read more.

Michelle Obama Visits San Diego Farm

The First Lady visited a community garden farmed by international refugees in San Diego. She called it a model for building healthy communities across the nation and around the world. Mrs. Obama toured the New Roots Community Farm to promote her Let's Move childhood obesity campaign. Read more.

Risks for Youth Who Eat What They Watch

Many factors influence children’s food choices: where they eat, what friends and siblings eat, what parents eat and drink and bring into the house, what is served at school, and what they like. The issue is particularly important now that rates of childhood obesity are soaring, influenced in no small way by commercial interests. Read more.

Majority of California Voters Support Soda Tax

Even in the midst of the great recession, a solid majority of California voters support taxing sodas as a way to fund childhood obesity prevention programs in California, according to a poll released by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy. Read more.

Is Junk Food as Addictive as Cocaine?

A growing body of research is showing that fatty, sweet, and salty processed foods are as addictive as cocaine and heroin, including a new article in the journal Nature Neuroscience. Read more.


For Obese People, Prejudice in Plain Sight

Children's Hospital in Philadelphia, one of the leading pediatric hospitals in the country, boasts that it's "100 percent smoke-free, inside and out." But like many hospitals across the nation, it is certainly not fat-free. Read more.

Child Obesity: If You Want to Help Future Generations, Now Is the Time to Act!

The fight against childhood obesity is on everyone's plate right now, as the health of America's youth takes center stage in mainstream media and politics. Read more.


Marketers Spend More to Target Hispanics

Despite the recession and close to double-digit cuts in ad spending among the top 500 advertisers, the share of media dollars allocated to the Hispanic market increased in 2009. Read more.

Weak Advertising Standards Fail Kids

Food advertisers' self regulation of their ads could not meet their own standards and failed to keep kids away from consuming junk food, according to researchers at Otago University. Read more.

McDonald’s Targets Based on Transactions


Companies including McDonald’s can advertise to consumers based on the transactions listed on their bank statements, which has raised privacy concerns. Read more.