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

October 2012

The New School Lunch

The Rudd Center commends the U.S.Department of Agriculture for the significant improvements it made in the regulations for the National School Lunch Program this year. Food service directors around the country have been working diligently to implement positive changes, including serving more fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, while reducing sodium, saturated fat, and excess calories.

Criticism has surfaced from a few students, teachers, and government representatives. “I have a hypothesis -- these students aren't actually hungry; they miss the salt, sugar and fat,” said Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Rudd Center Deputy Director, in her blog on The Huffington Post.

Parents, teachers, and administrators can take the following steps to ensure an effective transition to the new standards.

1. Help students to either eat breakfast at home or participate in the school breakfast program.

2. Promote the whole grains, fruit, and vegetables in students’ lunches. These foods are good sources of fiber, which leads to feeling full.

3. Arrange a way for students and food service staff to communicate about how different dishes taste and involve students in designing lunches.

4. Join your school wellness committee and involve the committee in the discussion. Every school district that participates in the lunch program has a group of students, parents, teachers, administrators, and food service staff that addresses policies related to nutrition and physical activity.

The new regulations are based on decades of sound science and are part of our nation’s response to the problem of poor nutrition among youth. Studies have shown that youth need to consume more fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, and less sodium, saturated fat, and excess sugar and calories. These regulations are an important step on the path to a healthier generation.

American Beverage Association to Post Calories on Vending Machines

The American Beverage Association announced that it will post the calories of beverages in vending machines in Chicago and San Antonio municipal buildings. The Calorie Count Vending Program will begin in early 2013 and then expand nationwide. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Dr Pepper Snapple Group will work with their partners to display calories per container, offer more lower-calorie beverages, and add a message to the front of vending machines about choosing healthier beverages.

Cities and states around the country, including Chicago, are discussing or have filed legislation for a sugar-sweetened beverage tax, which has the potential to reduce consumption and raise revenue that could be earmarked for obesity prevention programs. Many organizations and communities have launched campaigns to reduce consumption and promote healthier options.

Rudd Report on Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Taxes: An Updated Policy Brief


The Rudd Center has updated its Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Taxes Policy Brief. Since the 2009 publication of the first Report on soft drink taxes, significant progress has been made in the effort to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. The body of scientific literature that links consumption to overweight, obesity, and chronic illnesses has grown substantially. The Report discusses this literature, the estimated effects of a tax, policy recommendations, and the arguments used by proponents and opponents of the tax.

F as in Fat Report Shows Need for Prevention and Policy

Adult obesity rates, along with obesity-related diseases and health care costs, will increase considerably in every state across the country over the next 20 years if current trends continue, according to “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2012,” an annual report from Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) on obesity trends in the United States.

The report showed that obesity rates for adults could reach or exceed 44 percent in every state and exceed 60 percent in 13 states. However, if the average body mass index was reduced by 5 percent by 2030, billions of dollars in projected health care spending would be saved.

The report emphasized the need for policy at every level of government. “This study shows us two futures for America’s health,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, RWJF president and CEO. “At every level of government, we must pursue policies that preserve health, prevent disease and reduce health care costs. Nothing less is acceptable.”

The Rudd Center’s work on weight bias and stigma was discussed in the report. Incidences of weight bias have increased in the United States along with obesity rates. Weight discrimination has increased by 66 percent over the past decade in the United States and has reached rates similar to those of racial discrimination.

The importance of menu labeling was also discussed. Eighty percent of consumers want nutrition information on menus and menu boards, and several states and localities have already implemented menu labeling laws.

The report concluded with a call to action, urging policymakers at all levels to invest in obesity prevention and implement policies to combat the epidemic. Recommendations from the report included:

  • Fully implement the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act by implementing the new school meal standards and updating nutrition standards for competitive foods.
  • Increase investments in effective, evidence-based obesity-prevention programs.
  • Finalize the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children Guidelines.
  • Fully support healthy nutrition in federal food programs.

TV Anchor Responds to Viewer's Attack on Her Weight

Jennifer Livingston, a local news anchor for WKBT News 8 “This Morning” in La Crosse, Wisconsin, recently responded on-air to a viewer’s attack on her weight. Livingston received an email from a male viewer who claimed she was not a "suitable example" for young girls because of her weight, and that she should consider her responsibility as a local public personality to present a “healthy” lifestyle.

In her on-air response, Livingston stated that she was "much more than a number on the scale." She then turned the viewer’s discussion of her weight into a message against bullying, noting that October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, and encouraging youth not to let their self-worth be defined by bullies.

“The remarkable and courageous response from Jennifer Livingston is inspiring," said Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Rudd Center Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives. "At a time when weight-based bullying is more widespread toward overweight youth than ever before, her message is one that should be repeated in classrooms across the country. We live in a society where bullying individuals about their weight has become socially acceptable, and we must increase efforts to put a stop to this pervasive, damaging, and unfair treatment. Jennifer Livingston is an admirable example for young people and should be commended for taking a public stand against bullying.”

Employment Opportunity at the Rudd Center

Provide data integration and analysis support for Rudd Center researchers in various food marketing and food policy projects. Establish databases created from multiple sources, verify data quality, recommend appropriate statistical and analytical methods, evaluate/analyze data, and present results. Provide advice to and consult with Rudd Center researchers on database design and statistical analysis for other research studies centered on food policy, nutrition, and obesity.

Upcoming Seminar Speakers

Wednesday, November 7, 12:30 pm
Ronette Briefel, DrPH, RD
Senior Fellow, Mathematica Policy Research
National Data to Inform Childhood Obesity Prevention Strategies: Beverage, Dietary, and Activity Practices at Home and School

Tuesday, November 13, 12:30 pm
Amy B. Jordan, PhD
Director, Media & the Developing Child, Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania
Testing the Effectiveness of Public Service Advertising Aimed at Reducing Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

Unless otherwise noted, seminars are held at the Rudd Center. The seminars are free and open to the public. Seating is limited. The full schedule for the Fall Seminar Series is available online and for download.

Rudd Center Spotlight: Amy B. Jordan, PhD

JordanAmy B. Jordan, PhD, Director of the Media & the Developing Child Sector of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, will present Testing the Effectiveness of Public Service Advertising Aimed at Reducing Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages on November 13 during the Rudd Center’s Fall Seminar Series.

Dr. Jordan’s research focuses on the role the media play in the childhood obesity epidemic. Her studies have examined the implementation and public reception of the educational television mandate known as the Three-Hour Rule; the V-Chip legislation; the American Academy of Pediatrics’ media use recommendations; and the impact of food marketing on children.

She is currently the Principal Investigator of a study examining sugary beverage-related campaigns from around the country as a strategy for addressing childhood obesity. The study is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Under a grant funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Jordan recently provided the Philadelphia Department of Public Health with formative and monitoring research for the city's media campaign to fight childhood obesity.

Dr. Jordan is currently the co-editor of the Journal of Children and Media and co-author/editor of several books, including Media Messages and Public Health and Children, Adolescents, and the Media. She is the recipient of the International Communication Association's Best Applied/Policy Research Award and the National Communication Association's Stanley L. Saxon Applied Research Award.

Just Published by the Rudd Center

Government’s Legal Authority to Regulate Food-Industry Practices

The importance of obesity as a public health concern has led to many proposed policy solutions that have stirred up controversy and opposition from the food industry. Governments have the legal authority to regulate food-industry practices despite legal challenges threatened or launched by industry, according to the Rudd Center’s Jennifer Pomeranz, JD, MPH, Director of Legal Initiatives, and Kelly Brownell, PhD, Director, in a “Perspective” piece published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Using New York City’s sugar-sweetened beverage serving size restriction as an example, Pomeranz and Brownell discussed the challenges made by the food industry against government regulation and the lack of a sound legal basis for its opposition.

Regulations that affect the sale of a product are presumed to be constitutional if they have a rational basis and if the government body enacting them has the appropriate knowledge and experience to do so, according to the authors. They asserted that New York City’s sugar-sweetened beverage portion size restriction has a rational basis and is related to government’s interest in protecting citizens’ health based on the established health harms from consuming large portions of sugar-sweetened beverages.

The authors refuted potential industry challenges based on the First Amendment, Dormant Commerce Clause, Equal Protection Clause, and alleged substantive due-process rights of consumers.

Pomeranz and Brownell encouraged governments to consider experimenting with similar regulations of food retail environments.

Food Day Celebrates Healthy, Affordable, Sustainable Food

The second annual Food Day will take place on October 24, connecting people nationwide as they address health, nutrition, hunger, agricultural policy, animal welfare, and farm worker justice. Individuals and organizations can get involved in Food Day, which is coordinated by Center for Science in the Public Interest, by attending an event in their community.

The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts

Curt Ellis
Co-Founder and Executive Director, FoodCorps

James Krieger, MD, MPH
Chief, Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention Section, Public Health – Seattle and King County; Clinical Professor, Medicine and Health Services, University of Washington

The Rudd Center’s extensive library of podcasts is available for download on iTunes U and through an RSS feed.

Front Burner News

Nestlé and General Mills Cut Sugar in Cereals Abroad


Nestlé and General Mills will cut sugar and salt in children's breakfast cereals marketed outside of North America. In December of 2009, General Mills promised to reduce the sugar content to single-digit grams per serving, of ten of its cereals marketed to children under 12 in the United States. Read more.

Removing Junk Food from Hospitals

New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is aiming to remove sugary and fatty foods from both public and private hospitals through the Healthy Hospital Food Initiative. Read more.

Childhood Obesity Threatens National Security

A group of retired military leaders is urging that junk food be removed from schools due to the childhood obesity epidemic in the United States and its impact on finding qualified recruits. Read more.

Obesity in the Workplace

Health and legal experts say that over the next five years U.S. courts and government agencies will be forced to address issues regarding how overweight and obese people are treated in the workplace. Read more.

Reading Nutrition Labels Impacts Weight

Women who read food labels weigh 8 pounds less than those who do not read labels, according to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in the journal Agricultural Economics. Read more.

Percentage of Severely Obese Adults Rising

The percentage of American adults who are severely obese has skyrocketed since 2000, according to a study from the RAND Corporation. Read more.

Healthy Parks

The Healthy Parks Act of 2012 was introduced in the Washington, DC, City Council, to establish nutritional standards for food and beverages provided, offered, or sold at parks and recreation facilities. The act also calls for limits on unhealthy food marketing to children at these facilities. Read more.

Regulating Junk Food like Alcohol

Policies similar to those meant to curb alcohol consumption could be implemented to reduce the consumption of high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods, according to research from the RAND Corporation. Read more.

Michelle Obama's Let's Move Initiative Shifts Focus

Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to combat childhood obesity had early gains, and then shifted in focus from food reform to exercise. Read more.


Beverage Industry Sues to Stop Portion Size Limit on Sugary Drinks

The American beverage industry, along with several New York restaurant and business groups, filed a lawsuit that aims to overturn New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to limit the sale of sugary drinks to 16 ounces or less at many venues in the city. Read more.

Sugary Drink’s Role in Obesity

There is a direct link between the consumption of sugary drinks and added weight, according to a trio of studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which provide strong evidence that sugary drinks play a role in obesity. Read more.


Emerging Food and Addiction Research

There has been controversy over whether food can be addictive, but recent research shows food and drug addictions have much in common. Read more.

The Sugary Drink Tax Domino Effect

The California cities of Richmond and El Monte have put sugar-sweetened beverage taxes on the November ballot. If either were to institute such a tax, some or even many nearby cities would quickly follow suit. Read more.

Stigmatizing the Obese is Counterproductive

Overweight people are often blamed for their condition and as a consequence, some believe the solution to the obesity epidemic is one of personal responsibility. However, this line of thought is counterproductive. Read more.

Soda Companies Fund Health Organizations

Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are heavy funders of the American Dietetic Association and the American Diabetes Association. Read more.


FTC Updating Report on Food Marketing to Children

The Federal Trade Commission is updating a 2008 report that examined how food companies market their products to children and how it affects childhood obesity. The updated report will be released later this year and will examine whether the kinds of activities companies use to market to children have changed. Read more.

Self-Regulation of Food Marketing in Europe

Self-regulation of food marketing to children is not working in Europe, according to a report by the International Association for the Study of Obesity. The report shows that advertising to children has only decreased by 29 percent across Europe since 2004 and has increased in some countries. Read more.

Mobile Games Target Children


Food companies are spreading their messages and building brand loyalty among children by embedding their products in simple and enticing games for touch-screen phones and tablets. Read more.

Sports Sponsorships Influence Children

Children are influenced by food and beverage sports sponsorships, which create a strong brand recall and positive attitudes toward sponsors, according to research by the University of Sydney and The Cancer Council New South Wales. Read more.

Worst Marketing Practice

Frito-Lay Sponsors Heart Walk

Snack food company Frito-Lay was a sponsor of the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk in Dallas, Texas. Chester the Cheetah, the Cheetos mascot, appeared on stage, walked alongside participants, and handed out bags of Cheetos. Read more.

Best Marketing Practice

Green Giant Veggie Pledge

The Green Giant vegetable brand has launched a marketing campaign to encourage children and families to increase their fruit and vegetable consumption. The “One Giant Pledge” focuses on eating at least one vegetable each day for a month, and will be advertised through television commercials, the brand’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and promotional activities. Read more.