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

July 2013

New Director Announced for the Rudd Center

The Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University is pleased to announce that Marlene Schwartz, PhD, will serve as the Center’s new Director.


She succeeds Kelly Brownell, PhD, who co-founded the Rudd Center with Leslie Rudd in 2005.

“Marlene Schwartz is uniquely qualified to be the Rudd Center’s next leader,” said
Brownell. “In addition to her reputation as an accomplished scholar, she is known for her ability to work at the intersection of science and public policy. Her creativity and passion will shape the next successful chapter of the Rudd Center.”

Dr. Schwartz received her PhD in Psychology from Yale University in 1996. Prior to joining the Rudd Center, she served as Co-Director of the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders. Her research examines how children’s diets and health are influenced by home, school, and community environments, and she uses her findings to empirically test how local, state, and federal policies can facilitate improved nutrition. Dr. Schwartz has received grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, and the Horizon Foundation.

“We live in a world where it is difficult for parents to feed their children well, and people are discriminated against based on body size and weight. This must change,” said Schwartz. “At the Rudd Center, we are working to create a world that supports parents’ efforts to raise nourished, healthy children, and prohibits weight stigma and discrimination.”  

Rudd Center Joins Voices for Healthy Kids

The Rudd Center has received a grant from the American Heart Association to facilitate one of six teams, as part of their Voices for Healthy Kids initiative. As the “Healthy Drinks” team, the Rudd Center will provide evidence-based resources for communities and individuals looking to advance policies to reduce children’s consumption of sugary drinks and encourage consumption of healthy ones. The Center will work closely with the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy to provide the necessary tools and technical assistance to engage, organize, and mobilize people on this issue.

The Healthy Drinks team will:
• Assist in state and local coalition-building
• Hold monthly webinars
• Distribute fact sheets, research summaries, policy briefs, and other written materials
• Provide sample PowerPoint presentations

The Healthy Drinks team will cover these topics:
• State and local excise taxes and other pricing initiatives
• The use of procurement policies to reduce consumption
• Message framing
• Accessibility of free, potable water, especially in schools
• Other policies to reduce consumption

Voices for Healthy Kids is a new collaboration between AHA and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In order to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic, Voices is sponsoring six teams to support policies that enable young people to eat healthier foods and be more active.

In addition to reducing sugary drink consumption, the other Voices teams will aim to:
• Improve the nutritional quality of foods and beverages in schools
• Increase children’s physical activity levels when they are out of school
• Protect children from marketing of unhealthy food and beverages
• Increase access to affordable healthy foods
• Increase access to parks, playgrounds, walking paths, bike lanes, and other safe places to be active

"If you are an organization, community member, advocate, public health official, or other interested individual, and are considering reducing sugary drink consumption in your community or workplace, contact Roberta Friedman, Rudd Center Director of Public Policy, at or (203) 432-4717.

Taco Bell Stops Selling Kids’ Meals

Taco Bell has announced that it will discontinue its kids' meals at all of its US restaurants. It is the first fast-food restaurant chain to eliminate kids' meals altogether and will begin reducing its menus this month. Kids’ meals will completely disappear from the chain's menus nationwide by January 2014.

Taco Bell is instituting this change in an effort to focus on an older clientele, according to a company-released statement. "As we continue our journey of being a better, more relevant Taco Bell, kids' meals and toys simply no longer make sense for us to put resources behind," said Chief Executive Officer Greg Creed.

“Taco Bell kids’ meals were among the worst nutritionally in our 2010 fast food analysis, so we applaud the restaurant for eliminating them from their menu,” said Jennifer Harris, PhD, MBA, Rudd Center Director of Marketing Initiatives.

Fall Seminar Series Scheduled

The Rudd Center has hosted more than 100 distinguished experts in academics, advocacy, and public policy to discuss their work and its implications for the study of obesity, food policy, and weight bias. The Fall 2013 series will begin on September 18, at the Rudd Center. The seminars are free and open to the public. Seating is limited.

Just Published by the Rudd Center

Foods Advertised on Popular Children's Websites Do Not Meet Nutrition Standards


Despite food company pledges to advertise only healthier foods to children, a Rudd Center study finds that companies place billions of ads for unhealthy foods and beverages on children’s websites. The study is the first to evaluate banner and other display advertising on websites that are popular with children, such as and The study is published online in Pediatric Obesity and was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Rudd Center researchers used syndicated Internet usage data from comScore to identify popular children's websites and the food advertisements viewed on those sites from July 2009 through June 2010. Advertisements were classified according to food category and whether the companies' participate in the food industry’s self-regulatory program, the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI). Researchers also evaluated the nutritional quality of the advertised products. Under the CFBAI, most large food companies have pledged to promote only healthier dietary choices in child-directed advertising, including display advertising on websites with a high proportion of child visitors.

Researchers found that 3.4 billion advertisements for food and beverages were viewed on popular children’s websites annually. More than one-half of these ads appeared on just two Viacom sites: and Children who visited viewed, on average, 30 food ads per month. CFBAI companies placed 89% of the food advertisements on children's websites.

Three-quarters of the advertisements promoted brands that food companies participating in CFBAI identified as healthier dietary choices for child-directed advertising, yet the products in 84% of those ads had high levels of fat, sugar, and/or sodium. Almost two-thirds of ads were for sugary breakfast cereals and fast-food. Of note, advertised foods that were designated by CFBAI companies as healthier choices appropriate for child-directed advertising, were less likely to meet nutrition standards proposed by the government, than other foods advertised to children.

To address limitations of the CFBAI, Congress commissioned an Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children (IWG) with representatives from four government agencies, to develop more effective guidelines for responsible marketing. The authors assert that stronger nutrition standards are required for foods marketed to children, such as those proposed by the IWG, to meaningfully improve the nutritional quality of advertising on children's websites.

“As previous studies of television advertising to children have shown, our findings demonstrate that CFBAI self-regulatory pledges do not protect children from advertising of nutritionally-poor foods on children’s web sites,” said Jennifer Harris, the Rudd Center Director of Marketing Initiatives. “Parents may believe that child-friendly sites like or are safe and fun, but one-third or more of all the advertising that children see on those sites is for foods with high levels of sugar, fat, or sodium.”

The paper was co-authored by the Rudd Center’s Amy Ustjanauskas, former Research Associate; Jennifer Harris, PhD, MBA, Director of Marketing Initiatives; and Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Director. A video about the study appears on YouTube.

The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts

Tatiana Andreyeva, PhD
Director of Economic Initiatives, Rudd Center
Economics and Obesity

The Rudd Center’s extensive library of podcasts is available for download on iTunes.

Front Burner News

Schools Should Help Prevent Obesity

Ninety percent of Americans say schools should play a role in combating obesity, according to a Field Research poll conducted for Kaiser Permanente. Read more.

Health Experts Look to Ban Unhealthy Foods in Hospitals

Health experts in the UK are working to ban unhealthy foods and drinks in hospitals, according to a report in the British Medical Journal. Read more.

Using Words Wisely in Weight Discussions

Shaming people into losing weight does not work. According to Rudd Center Deputy Director, Rebecca Puhl, PhD, when people are made to feel stigmatized, blamed, or shamed about their weight, they are more likely to react by engaging in unhealthy behaviors which may impair weight-loss efforts. Read more.

US Government Subsidizes Junk Food Ingredients

The US government has spent $19.2 billion subsidizing corn and soy junk food ingredients since 1995, according to a report by U.S. PIRG. Read more.

Food Makers Meet Demands of Changing Taste Preferences

Food makers are meeting the demands of America’s changing taste preferences by launching new “ethnic foods,” such as Campbell’s new tomato soup with coconut and lemongrass, and Doritos’ chili- and lime-flavored chips. Read more.

USDA Studies Food Shopping Patterns

The US Department of Agriculture is funding a study to understand adolescent and parent food shopping patterns, with the goal of creating an intervention to teach them how to make healthier choices. Read more.

Prescription for Healthy Foods

New York City officials have launched a new “get healthy” program in which doctors will “prescribe” a menu of fresh fruits and vegetables to patients battling obesity. Read more.

Education is too Important to Leave to Big Food

Just as we expect schools to do the heavy lifting when it comes to teaching algebra, physical education, and history, we should expect schools, not the food industry, to teach children about where food comes from and how it affects our bodies and our health, according to Michael Jacobson, Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Read more.

Food Industry Exploits Children through Marketing

Instead of begging the food industry to tweak the grams of sugar, fat, and salt that highly processed junk foods contain, we should demand that industry stop exploiting children through marketing, according to Michele Simon, a public health lawyer. Read more.

Debate over Eliminating Soda from SNAP

The idea of eliminating soda from SNAP, the federally-funded food program, is sparking debate between public health and anti-hunger advocates. According to Rudd Center Director, Marlene Schwartz, PhD, advocates need to work together on this issue. Read more.


Nickelodeon Continues Junk Food Marketing

Nickelodeon continues to market unhealthy food products to children despite continued pressure from health advocates to stop. Read more.

Shaquille O’Neal Markets Soda to Children

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is urging basketball legend Shaquille O'Neal to stop marketing his brand of soda to children. Read more.

Facebook Considers Modifying Account Age Restrictions

Media reports indicate that Facebook may revise its terms of use to allow children 12 and under to create a profile on the site. Allowing children onto the social media site will expose them to the largest online data collection system, and expose them to harmful food and beverage ads. Read more.