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

September 2011

New Website on School Food for Parent Advocates


The Rudd Center recently launched a website aimed at helping parent advocates navigate through the complex issues of school food. Rudd SPARK – Supporting Parent Advocates with Resources & Knowledge – connects parent advocates to Rudd Center research and resources and each other.

Rudd SPARK helps parent advocates understand school food regulation at the federal, state, and local levels and provides strategies on how to become a school food expert, advocate effectively, and use local and social media for change within their own district.

The site highlights areas that can have a positive impact on the school food environment, including wellness policies, national meal programs, foods sold outside national meal programs, school gardens, and school food legislation. Each area contains relevant research, local examples utilized by school districts around the country, and tools to develop strategies and track progress.

Rudd SPARK also identifies key players in schools, school districts, and the community who are essential in building a healthy school food environment.

“Parents are critically important and powerful advocates for children’s health,” said Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Deputy Director of the Rudd Center. “This site is designed to provide parents with the resources and knowledge they need to ensure their voices are heard by school administrators, policy makers, and the food industry. Rudd SPARK marks the beginning of an ongoing effort at the Rudd Center to make our research accessible to parents throughout the country.”

Campaigns Launched to Reduce Sugary Drinks

The Center for Science in the Public Interest recently announced a new campaign, Life's Sweeter with Fewer Sugary Drinks, which encourages individuals, families, and organizations to reduce consumption of sugary drinks.

The campaign’s website provides research on the effects of sugary drinks. It also offers calls to action, including supporting city/county/state government initiatives to reduce sugary drink consumption, limiting the sale of the beverages in cafeterias, and providing only water and low-calorie drinks at organizational functions.

The City of Boston, Massachusetts, kicked off a public awareness campaign aimed at reducing residents’ consumption of sugary-sweetened beverages. It focuses on teens and youth who consume more than other age groups, and parents who purchase groceries for families. Residents will be exposed to the campaign through advertising on TV, radio, public transportation, web, print, and billboard.

Recent Rudd Center Blogs

Weight Bias Remains Even After Weight Loss

Weight-based stigmatization is so pervasive that many overweight and obese people seek extreme weight-loss methods such as bariatric surgery.

In a recent blog, Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Rudd Center Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives, reviewed a study that investigated if weight bias changed after someone lost weight. The study asked participants to view an image of an obese woman before and after she lost weight. The participants perceived her more favorably when she was thinner. However, attitudes varied depending on the weight-loss method.

Participants viewed the woman more positively when they thought she had lost weight through diet and exercise. But, when they thought she had lost weight through surgery, the woman was thought to be as lazy as when she was obese. “It appears that efforts are needed not only to combat stigma towards persons who are obese, but also to reduce the stigma of weight loss surgery,” according to Dr. Puhl.

Fighting a Battle for Weight-Loss Surgery

Weight-loss (bariatric) surgery can provide health benefits and even be a life-saving solution for obese people. Still, many people in need of bariatric surgery are unable to receive it, according to a recent blog by Dr. Puhl. In the United States, the “surgery is most often performed on white women with higher incomes and private health insurance, creating disparities for racial minorities and individuals in lower socio-economic brackets, who are more likely to be obese,” she wrote. Dr. Puhl urges health care professionals to question whether obesity is stigmatized and how to make bariatric surgery more accessible for those who need it most.

Are Story Books About Dieting Appropriate for Children?

A new children’s book called “Maggie Goes on a Diet,” set to be released in October, is garnering a significant amount of media attention and criticism. The book is about a 14-year old girl who is teased at school and decides to lose weight by going on a diet and exercising. She eventually becomes a star soccer player and gains popularity. 

The book’s title, story line, and cover raise questions about how to communicate the importance of a healthy lifestyle to children without perpetuating stigma and the obsession with thinness, according to Dr. Puhl.

The articles by Dr. Puhl are the latest in a series about weight bias on Medscape, a part of WebMD Health Professional Network (free online registration required).

Upcoming Seminar Speakers

September 28, 12:30 pm
Tamara R. Piety, JD, LLM
Associate Dean of Faculty Development and Professor of Law, University of Tulsa College of Law
Marketing and the Commercial Speech Doctrine

October 12, 12:30 pm
Lainie Rutkow, JD, PhD, MPH
Assistant Professor, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Can the Food Industry Legally Choose to Do No Harm?

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive reminders of upcoming seminars and schedule changes.

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 our Fall Seminar Series is available online and for download.

Just Published by the Rudd Center

Policy Options to Regulate Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

Innovative policy options should be explored to regulate sugar-sweetened beverages and support public health, according to a paper recently published in Journal of Public Health Policy.

As public-health studies expose the detrimental health impact of sugar-sweetened beverages, consumer protection and public-health advocates have called for increased government control, according to author Jennifer Pomeranz, JD, MPH, Director of Legal Initiatives at the Rudd Center.

While the major focus of governmental control has been on restricting marketing of sugar-sweetened beverages to children, the author asserts that policy options such as mandatory factual disclosures, earmarked taxation, and regulation of sales, including placement within retail and food-service establishments and schools, should be explored and utilized to reduce consumption.

Local Governments Can Protect Children from Harmful Food Marketing

Local governments and municipalities are in a unique position to initiate legislation that will limit the harmful effects of food marketing to children, according to a recent paper coauthored by the Rudd Center's Jennifer Harris, PhD, MBA, Director of Marketing Initiatives.

In 2006, the food industry spent $1.6 billion on marketing to youth through TV, other media advertising, and targeted advertising in local communities such as stores, schools, and restaurants. In the article published in Preventing Chronic Disease, the authors call on local governments to make changes to the obesogenic marketing environment that surrounds children who are uniquely vulnerable to advertising's effects.

The authors urge states and localities to take a regulatory stand against harmful forms of food marketing to youth that occur in their communities. Each state retains the authority to act in the interest of the public's health, safety, and welfare. Therefore, states hold the authority to legislate on that basis.

Dr. Harris' coauthor was Samantha K. Graff, JD, Director of Legal Research at the National Policy & Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity (NPLAN).

Darden Restaurants to Offer Healthier Meals

Darden Restaurant Corporation, owners of Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and LongHorn Steakhouse, recently announced that it will reduce the calories and sodium in all of its meals by 10 percent over five years and 20 percent over 10 years. The restaurant also committed to offering healthier children’s meals.

Children's meals will come with a fruit or vegetable side dish and 1 percent milk, unless an adult requests a substitute. Sodas and fries will not be listed on the menus, but can be requested in most locations. Changes to children’s meals will take place by July 2012.

Darden’s chief executive officer, Clarence Otis, made the announcement alongside First Lady Michelle Obama who, according to Otis, prompted the restaurant group to act. "Because of our First Lady's leadership, parents are more aware of the need to encourage healthier living and exercise," Otis said. "At Darden, we want to support that effort."

Rudd Center Spotlight: Tamara R. Piety, JD, LLM

PietyTamara R. Piety, JD, LLM, Associate Dean of Faculty Development and Associate Professor of Law at the University of Tulsa College of Law, will discuss marketing and the commercial speech doctrine on September 28 during the Rudd Center’s Fall Seminar Series.

Ms. Piety is a nationally recognized legal scholar and writes about the legal treatment of commercial and corporate speech. She is widely published in legal journals including Michigan Law Review First Impressions, Case Western Reserve Law Review, Cardozo Law Review, Temple Law Review, and Seattle Law Review. She is the author of the book “Brandishing the First Amendment,” which will be released this fall.

She was a co-author on a brief on behalf of the Sierra Club, filed in support of Respondent Mark Kasky in the Nike v. Kasky case, which had implications for the ability to hold corporations responsible for the accuracy of their statements about their corporate social-responsibility efforts.

Ms. Piety earned her bachelor's degree in economics from Florida International University, her law degree from the University of Miami School of Law, and her Master of Laws from Harvard Law School.

Food for Thought: Last of the Lunch Ladies

Cafeteria employees have served their final platters in 45 high schools and ten middle schools in Florida's Miami-Dade school district. Starting this fall, Star Food's Healthy Express vending machines will replace the schools' cafeteria workers. However, these aren't your traditional vending machines. Instead of soda and chips, they'll dispense healthier options such as yogurt parfaits, wraps, and salads made with locally grown ingredients. Local celebrity chefs created many of the vending items. Students can swipe their identification card at the machines and money will automatically be deducted from their lunch account.

The vending machine installations are funded by some of the $15 million in federal stimulus money Miami-Dade County Health Department received for obesity prevention programs.

The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts

Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH
President and Chief Executive Officer, Legacy

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

Front Burner News

Half of American Adults Obese by 2030

Unless the government makes changing the food environment a priority, half of American adults will be obese by 2030, according to a report released in the journal The Lancet. Read more.

Women’s Vulnerability to Weight Stigma

Overweight women may still feel stigmatized about their weight even if their family and friends do not judge them negatively, according to a study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine. Read more.

Sugar and Calories Reduced in Flavored Milks

Flavored milk cartons will contain fewer than 150 calories and 22 grams of total sugar on average this school year, says the Milk Processor Education Program, the dairy industry’s national marketing group. Read more.

Highlighting the Problems with Serving Sizes

Canned soups, ice cream, coffee creamers, and non-stick sprays understate the calories, sodium, and saturated fat the average person typically consumes when eating these foods, according to Center for Science in the Public Interest. Read more.

“Philly Food Bucks” Successful


A pilot program in Philadelphia called Philly Food Bucks that aims to encourage food-stamp recipients to buy more fresh produce at farmers’ markets has proved successful, according to figures released by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. Read more.

U.S. Farm Policy and the Obesity Epidemic

The federal government provides $15 billion in annual subsidies to farmers and encourages them to grow large amounts of grain. As a result, prices drop, food gets cheaper, and we end up eating too much. Read more.

Making a Healthy Diet More Affordable

Eating a healthy diet, much like the one recommended by the U.S. government, is not an easy task, especially in view of the high costs, according to a study published in the journal Health Affairs. Read more.


Less Soda and Junk Food in Boston Schools Equals Healthier Children

Sugary drinks were banned from Boston public schools in 2004. Critics said that the policy would not work and that children would get their soda fix elsewhere. However, a study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows that the policy is working and builds a case for removing junk food also. Read more.

Half of Americans Consume Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Daily

Half of the U.S. population over age 2 consumes sugary drinks daily, according to a report released by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. Male teens consume the most - 252 to 273 calories every day from sugar-sweetened beverages. Read more.

Coca-Cola Continues Lobbying

Coca-Cola spent $1.45 million from April through June to lobby the federal government on trade, tax policy, food-assistance programs, marketing to children, and other matters, according to a recent disclosure report filed with the House clerk's office. Read more.


Little Chance of Big Food Regulating Itself

The food industry’s self regulation tactics may be immediate, non-threatening, and magical, but they do not work. Read more.

Chocolate Milk? Not In the Schools

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District is debating on removing flavored milk from its menus. School board officials should stand with parents in removing sugary milk, thereby placing children's health and welfare before the interests of the milk-processing industry. Read more.

Industry Throws a Tantrum

As more and more research comes out demonstrating how harmful food marketing is to children,the food industry is throwing a very expensive tantrum to squash the proposed national nutritional guidelines for food advertised to children. Read more.


Government's Proposed Standards for Food Marketing Aimed at Kids Superior to Industry's

Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) analyzed the Interagency Working Group’s proposed principles on nutrition and marketing of foods to youth and found that the industry is close to meeting the proposed voluntary ceilings for saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and sugars for many foods. CSPI and other organizations and experts support the proposed principles. Read more.

Healthy Food for Children Not on TV Commercials

The number of food ads that children see has dropped since the implementation of the Better Business Bureau’s Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, according to recent study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. However, the drop is not significant and children now see more ads for fast-food restaurants than they did before the initiative went into effect. Read more.

Food Marketing to Children Gets Savvy with New Technology


With the growing use of smartphones and social media, marketers have new avenues for targeting children without parents knowing. According to some parents, no one goes more over the top in tech-savvy marketing to children than the big food sellers. Read more.