Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (March 2015)|
|This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (March 2015)|
|Purpose||"...to improve the world’s diet, prevent obesity, and reduce weight stigma..."|
|Rebecca M. Puhl|
Director of Public Policy
|Roberta R. Friedman|
|Kelly Brownell, former director|
The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity is a non-profit research and public policy organization devoted to improving the world’s diet, preventing obesity, and reducing weight stigma. Located in Hartford, Connecticut at The University of Connecticut, the Rudd Center was co-founded in March 2005 at Yale University by benefactor Leslie Rudd and Kelly D. Brownell, Ph.D. The Rudd Center moved from Yale to the University of Connecticut in December 2014. According to the Center website, "The Rudd Center serves as a leader in building broad-based consensus to change diet and activity patterns, while holding industry and government agencies responsible for safeguarding public health. The Center serves as a leading research institution and clearinghouse for resources that add to our understanding of the complex forces affecting how we eat, how we stigmatize overweight and obese people, and how we can change." At the dedication ceremony for the center in 2005, founding director Brownell remarked, "Diets and their determinants in the U.S. are inextricably linked to those in other countries through international trade policies, global media influences, agriculture subsidies, and a number of other social, economic, and political mechanisms." The mission & purpose of the Rudd Center is to reverse the global spread of obesity; to reduce weight bias; and to galvanize community members, public officials, and advocacy groups to achieve positive, lasting change. The Rudd Center pursues these goals through strategic science, interaction with key players in media, industry and government; and mobilization of grassroots efforts. The Center seeks to develop innovative and effective measures to combat obesity and improve global health by addressing various sectors such as economics, food and agriculture policy, food marketing to youth, law, public policy, school and community nutrition, and biases and stigma that occur because of body weight.
An example of an economic policy that The Rudd Center is using to attempt to change the economy is the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax. This tax works by charging a small tax to sugar sweetened beverages, leading to hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue per year to certain cities.
Showing that economics matter is also a way the UConn Rudd Center suggests participants can be worthy of explanation. Taxing unhealthy foods and ingredients is one way they suggest doing this. Prices and costs of healthy food should also be adjusted and made more affordable.
The center focuses on the economic conditions underlying why certain demographics, primarily those that are less wealthy living in poorer areas, are subject to such higher rates of obesity. One area of concern is the relatively low amount of grocery stores in low income neighborhoods versus the high density of fast food restaurants. Grocery stores that provide fresh produce, lean meats, and other non-processed food items are not readily available for these people to shop in where as there are countless varieties of fast food restaurants that provide cheap but nutritionally lacking food. Additionally, even if grocery stores were readily available, those in lower income brackets are prohibited economically to purchase the healthier food because it is more expensive than fast food. Another area of focus is the externalities that may have caused obesity at large. Comparing transparency in the food industry to the prior precedent of tobacco litigation, the center advocates policy to curb obesity by supporting legislation to regulate food labels and what children have access to in school zones. By address the issue of obesity now, the Rudd Center hopes that this will offset future costs on future generations of individuals who will have to pay for this epidemic. 
Food and agriculture industry
More than 50% of food dollars is spent eating out. This can contribute to unwanted excess amounts of calories, sodium, and fat consumed. This is something to be more aware of, considering rising rates of obesity, heart disease, obesity, and other diet-related health issues. Displaying nutrition information on menus at fast food chains can help consumers make more conscious decisions that affect their health positively. Most people underestimate the amounts of fats, sodium, and calories in a fast food meal. Having this information readily available to them empowers them to make the better choice between fries and carrot sticks, for example. It is evident that consumers do want this information displayed. Three out of four people read nutrition labels on packages and testify to the help it gives in making a better purchasing decision. According to Rudd, 83% of consumers support menus being labeled with the nutrition information.
Food and beverage advertising contributes to childhood obesity. It affects children’s requests and preferences for advertised products and likely contributes to less-healthful diets. TV and other forms of food marketing to children primarily promote products high in sugar, sodium, or saturated fat. In the U.S., food companies spent $1.6 billion in marketing directed towards children and adolescents. 
Due to industrialization and advancements in agricultural technology people don't aren't forced to spend fortunes on food. This low price on our food also comes from subsidies provided by the federal government. Agriculture subsidies came into prominence in the United States in 1973, when President Richard Nixon and Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz responded to high commodity prices by initiating subsidies to help financially crippled farmers. Subsidies favored some foods over others, with corn and soybeans taking the lead. The goal of the program was to provide income assistance to farmers. Since then, however, continued advances in industrialized farming have spawned overproduction that has reduced the prices of subsidized commodities and thus changed the price balance for all foods. This subsidizing has led to an artificially low cost of meat. If public health is to improve in the USA the government should subsidize all food equally. This would lower the cost of healthy foods that would encourage the consumption and increase availability of healthier fruits and vegetables.
Food marketing to youth
In 2011, the Rudd Center published a study in the journal Public Health Nutrition suggesting that additional government regulation of front-of-package labeling is needed to protect consumers. Through an online survey, researchers asked parents with children between the ages of 2 and 11 to view images of actual box fronts of children's cereals. While the cereals were of below-average nutritional quality, the boxes featured various nutrition-related health claims including 'whole grain', 'fiber', 'calcium and vitamin D', 'organic' and 'supports your child's immunity'. Participants were provided with possible meanings for these claims and indicated how the claims would affect their willingness to buy the product. Parents inferred that cereals containing claims were more nutritious overall and might provide specific health-related benefits for their children, which predicted a greater willingness to buy the cereals. The way that we market food and perceive different categories of food has worsen the body images of the American population. Our food environment has continually increased our populations' weight, appearance standards have remained severe, more people are dieting, more people are fighting their bodies, and more people have perverted relationships with food. Due to rising global concerns about the increasing occurrence of childhood overweight and obesity, the World Health Organization and the Institute of Medicine have both called on the private sector to address these problems. The Rudd Center has most recently debuted a database for pledges on food marketing to children listed in the Rudd Center database are the voluntary pledges issued by food and beverage companies to change marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children. To persuade the food industry to self-regulate, the Rudd Center organized a pledge initiative in which participants, many major global food and beverage companies, in conjunction with industry trade organizations, have issued voluntary pledges to change marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children. Rudd makes available on its website a database that lists and describes these pledges, making publicly available the specific criteria each pledge or company uses to define their restrictions on marketing communications to children, including the definition of "children" (age); the definition of marketing directed at children (child-directed media); the communications channels (ex. television, internet, etc.) and marketing techniques (ex. advertising using licensed characters, advertising using promotional materials, etc.) covered. The self-regulation include all participating companies. Most of the pledges* require participating companies to publish individual commitments to the pledges**, which may contain more stringent definitions than specified in the pledges. A minority of pledges do not require commitments from participating companies. In these cases the criteria set out in the pledge cover all members. Participants include such global food corporations as Mondelez International, Nestle, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, and Parmalat.
The Rudd Center also did a study on the amount of ads children are exposed to each day. They found that in 2011 preschoolers saw 11 food or beverage ads per day and that increased to 15 ads per day once children hit 12–14 years old. According to the study, 86% of foods seen by the children were products that had one-third of their calories in sugar. This is contributing to the amount of sugary foods children are consuming. The Rudd Center argues that Media companies could restrict the amount of food advertising that is targeting during youth programming.
U.S. children see approximately 13 food commercials every day that promote unhealthy foods and drinks high in calories, sugar, sodium and fat. This amounts to about 4,700 a year. Teens see more than 16 unhealthy food commercials a day (5,900 in a year). In comparison, kids only see about 1 healthy food ad a week that include fruits and veggies. This marketing happens in schools, on the internet, television and on mobile phones. The Rudd Center is conducting research on ways to reduce marketing of unhealthy food to kids. This research is funded by a $5.3 million, 3-year grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Organizations such as The World Health Organization and the American Psychological association blame emphasize marketing’s role in the obesity problem. The World Health Organizations Report in 2004 stated "marketing affects food choice and influences dietary habits, with subsequent implications for weight gain and obesity." And the American Psychological Association was quoted in 2004 saying, such advertising efforts, in our view, are fundamentally unfair because of young children’s comprehension of the nature and purpose of television advertising, and therefore warrant government action to protect young children from commercial exploitation". Companies often take the opposite position, and claim that marketing is not to blame for childhood obesity. When Shelley Rosen, VP of McDonald’s was asked if obesity and advertising are connected she replied, "There is no connection…When you ask if obesity is a marketing and communications issue the answer is no." 
Many TV networks have joined the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), in fighting the exposure of nutrient-low foods to children through advertising. However, some of these TV networks have not fulfilled their duty to comply with the standards set by the CFBAI. In a study conducted by the Rudd Center, the number of advertisements of sugary drinks and food was quantitatively measured through 5 different age groups. The amount of exposure to these channels increases with age. In 2011, two year olds saw on average 11 ads per day, and 12 year olds were seeing 15 ads per day. Four networks contributed almost half of the food and beverage ads viewed by children. They are: Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, Cartoon Network, and ABC Family. Oddly enough, these are all children’s channels, and they are contributing to the growing childhood obesity by putting these advertisements out there.
Law, nutrition and obesity
Junk food and sugary drink are the topic of debate in schools. These "foods of minimal nutritional value" (FMNV) are considered mostly candy and soda. The National School Lunch and Breakfast programs collectively allow FMNVs to be sold during the school day but not during meal time. Along with FMNVs, trans fats are also a topic talking about to ban from schools. Trans fats are used in cooking, frying and baking. Trans fat are also found in butter and snack goods. Denmark became the first country to ban trans fat in 2003. New York City is the first place in the United States to ban trans fat with a legal mandate to remove them in all restaurants in its city. Harvard predicts that removal of trans fat will decrease heart attacks related deaths by 6-19 percent. In order to combat the rising trend of heart attacks, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, the Rudd Center suggests menu labeling in chain restaurants. With this policy initiative, menus would include nutritional information such as calories, fat, carbohydrate, and sodium content. The purpose of menu labeling is for customers to understand the nutritional value—or lack of nutritional value—of the items listed on the menu before they place their order.  The Bellagio Conference on the Law, Nutrition and Obesity is seeking to fight the current growing obesity epidemic around the world, and create enact legal ways promote healthy living. It aims to protect children by adjusting advertising and creating higher nutritional standards for food being marketed to children. Physical activity and healthy nutrition should be stressed to children by both advertising approaches and parental empowerment. To help improve the nutritional quality of foods, the Yale Rudd center advises that we reduce the overall portion sizes of certain foods. In addition, we should upgrade the content of processed food and consider maximums for certain ingredients added to food. Some of these ingredients might include salt and sugar. A bill was introduced in 2013 to expand access to healthy foods. It tried to implement flexible financing programs, this would include loans, grants, and technical assistance to support businesses that would grow and sell healthy foods. This bill was not passed. Bans against smoking in public buildings, the removal of lead from paint and gasoline, and schools requiring vaccinations are all the result of legislation and legal efforts. Many experts consider obesity to be the next frontier of public health law.
Public policy and government
The Rudd Center seeks to actively engage policy and lawmakers to influence outcomes on food policy, school and community nutrition, and anti-obesity campaigns. It maintains a legislative database through which researchers can search proposed legislation that affects current food policy and legislation filed in Congress. "Policy-makers, researchers and advocates are looking for ways to make schools healthier by strengthening local wellness policies; updating nutrition standards for competitive foods, such as those offered in vending machines, à la carte lines and school stores; allowing more time for physical activity; and strengthening nutrition education and promotion efforts." In addition, public policy briefs available are very insightful and keep researchers up to date on important issues regarding the policy on food and obesity.
Food addiction is a growing problem in which the government and public policy can make a change. It has been proven that food and classic addictive substances compete for the same brain pathways. Many people suffer from a food addiction, and the addiction often starts at a young age. Improvement policies need to be put in place to stop the addictive nature of food. Ideally, improvement policies will mainly focus on children because they are the most vulnerable to addictive behavior since their brains are still developing.
Schools, families and communities
The Rudd Center actively participates in the growing concern of the nations childhood obesity problem by conducting research that impacts school food programs such as the school breakfast program, the national lunch program, the summer food service program, and the fresh fruit and vegetable programs. This research innovates these programs standards making for healthier policies to be implemented at the school level. The Rudd Center also focuses on the family’s impact on childhood nutrition by identifying social aspects of central mealtime and eating behaviors that are influenced by the family. Overall, a rise in "dining-out" as a family has been identified as a negative influence on nutrition as meals eaten at home are generally more nutritious then those eaten outside the home. The nutritional environment implemented by the community is also an important construct of nutrition. Issues such as the availability of nutritional information at restaurants is one concern that the Rudd center is actively researching and creating policies positively effect the education of nutritional information at restaurants. The Rudd Center For Food Policy and Obesity addresses the issues of childhood obesity in schools through school wellness policies. School wellness policies include nutritional guidelines for all food provided on campus, ensuring that they promote healthy eating and prevent childhood obesity. The wellness policies also include nutrition education, physical activity, and other school-based activity goals designed to promote student wellness and lastly the policies include measurement plans to implement the policies. However, there are issues with the policies as they are in place now and there are recommendations to improve these problems. First off, the policies are often incomplete, making it difficult to implement the policies and guarantee that they are being followed by the schools. In order to fix this, The Rudd Center suggests making the policies public and requiring specific language on implementation and evaluation so that there is no confusion on the expectations of the wellness policies. Another issue with the policies is the vague language that often comprises the policies. The logical step to correcting this is to evaluate the policies and specify the guidelines clearly to make sure that there is no confusion about what is required of the schools. Oftentimes the policy committees lack representation from important school personnel like P.E. teachers and students and from important members of the community. A possible solution to this would be establishing a permanent health wellness committee to oversee the implementation of policy and update it periodically. The last issue that is related to the school wellness policies is that unhealthy foods and drinks that are low in nutrients and high in sugar, calories, and fat are heavily marketed to school students, encouraging them to eat this unhealthy food. To prevent this, the school wellness policies should include specific language prohibiting the marketing of food and drinks at schools.
Weight bias and stigma
Although public awareness of increasing biases against obesity has been raised, there is very little that has been to counteract the bias that children and adult face on a daily basis. This involves areas that range from discrimination in employment and media stereotypes, to stigma faced in interpersonal relationships. The Rudd Center aims to stop the stigma at all age groups through research, education, and advocacy.
Funding and support
The Rudd Center accepts online donations which are tax deductible. Majority of the work at the Rudd center is supported by private gifts from the Rudd Foundation. The Rudd Center will not solicit financial support by the private sector if there are any conflicts of interest. The Rudd Center is committed to transparent, ethical behavior with respect to funding sources and interactions with the private sector. Some of the financial guiding principles of the Rudd Center state that "All shareholders should commit themselves explicitly to improve public health, interaction should not compromise scientific integrity, partners should be accountable both to their constituency and to the public." More information about the Rudd Center's guiding principles can be found on their website.
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