It is so exciting to see an issue with several papers related to the science behind policy development! Not that our other papers aren’t exciting because they are as well. However, the number of policy-related pieces seems to be increasing, which to me means more evidence and science will be supporting policy development and change in nutrition education and behavior.
For instance, Prescott et al. discuss their analysis of state-level share table policies across the US, reporting that about half had a written state-level policy available. While this supports a common food recovery strategy, what could be shared as well as if and how foods might be redistributed differed greatly. This work sets the stage for the development of comparable nationwide school share table policies and procedures.
Boundy et al. analyzed data on growth and nutrition practices for children younger than 2 from a random sample of the American Academy of Pediatrics (n = 698), reporting that almost half (48.2%) recommended introducing solid food at less than 6 months of age. Almost all recommended limiting juice and sugar-sweetened beverages. Few discussed responsive feeding practices. Although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends introducing meat soon after solids are introduced after 6 months of age, many in this sample recommended cereals ﬁrst. This study reﬂects the need to disseminate and educate health care practitioners in early childhood feeding, a crucial part of successful policy implementation.
Kroeger et al. highlights the importance of looking further than menus when evaluating policy implementation for Early Care and Education Centers’ menus. While the foods served was similar to the foods consumed, these differed from the menus, which themselves did not always meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. However, an important concept was that the children mostly ate what was served. This is important because a common assumption is that children will refuse to eat foods more tightly aligned with the DGA. This may be true, but an interesting study would be to see if the menus aligned with the DGA, and if this food was served, would the children eat it? Once again, dissemination and education are important to policy implementation.
Finally, in an effort to help shape food access and food systems on campuses of higher education, Hagedorn et al. developed a toolkit on food insecurity. While stakeholders evaluating the toolkit had reservations about implementation, such as staffing, funding and beliefs that food insecurity is not a real issue on campuses, they were overall positive about the toolkit. One comment in particular hit me hard: “If you could provide tips on reducing stigma for students in need.” We overcame this in elementary schools with community eligibility so everyone in the school receives a free lunch. I’m not sure this would be possible in higher education, but some strategies are clearly needed.
Overall, this issue provides an abundance of content for those teaching nutrition policy, those conducting research in food policy and those of us reaching out to our communities to educate and implement policy.
Karen Chapman-Novakofski, PhD, RDN, is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. This editorial first appeared in JNEB Vol. 52, Issue 1 (January 2020).