Posts Tagged: UC Berkeley
Teaching Kitchen course helps improve college students’ food security
Cooperative Extension researcher: Nutrition course a boon for UC Berkeley students
College students across the nation are struggling to meet their basic food needs. Within the University of California system of 280,000 students, 38% of undergraduate students and 20% of graduate students report food insecurity.
As part of the UC Global Food Initiative, in 2015 the Nutrition Policy Institute (a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources statewide research center) identified student food insecurity as a UC systemwide problem, prompting the UC Regents and campuses to collectively address the issue.
All 10 UC campuses now have on-site basic needs centers, providing food, emergency housing and support services. The UC system and campus working groups recognize that meeting basic needs, such as food, is a multidimensional challenge.
In response to the 2022 White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, which called for national efforts to reduce diet-related disease and food insecurity, UC renewed their commitment to cut the proportion of students facing food insecurity in half by 2030. Campuses will partner with local counties to maximize enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as CalFresh in California), provide food for students who do not qualify for CalFresh, and allocate campus food resources to historically underserved student populations.
NPI's collaborative researchers continue to monitor the impact of these efforts, in addition to other interventions, such as supporting students in building basic culinary skills, to improve food security. One multipronged approach to address food insecurity at UC Berkeley is a 14-week course on Personal Food Security and Wellness with a Teaching Kitchen laboratory component.
Sarah Minkow, who teaches the Personal Food Security and Wellness course at UC Berkeley, shared that students learn about nutrition and gain culinary skills through the Cal Teaching Kitchen.
The curriculum is designed with consideration for the time, cost and convenience of healthy eating. Discussions include food safety, calculating nutrient needs, mindful eating and reading nutrition labels. The Teaching Kitchen laboratory brings the lessons to life through knife skills, “no-cook” cooking, microwave cooking and sheet pan meals.
Minkow enthusiastically highlighted her students' “overwhelmingly positive [response to the] lecture and lab,” suggesting the benefits of an interactive learning environment to garner student engagement.
“Students often give feedback that they wish this was a required course for all UC Berkeley students,” said Minkow. She noted one barrier to reaching more students: capacity of the Teaching Kitchen space.
Susana Matias, a Cooperative Extension specialist at the UC Berkeley Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology and collaborative researcher with the NPI, evaluated the impact of the Personal Food Security and Wellness course at UC Berkeley.
Matias reported that increasing food literacy and culinary skills among students has shown to increase intake of fruits and vegetables, and frequency of cooking, and reduce the number of skipped meals. Her study on the impact of the 14-week nutrition course also found a significant decrease in student food insecurity.
Across the UC System, students are benefiting from their campus Teaching Kitchens, including UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UCLA and UC Riverside. Other campuses such as UC San Diego, UC San Francisco, UC Santa Cruz and UC Santa Barbara offer basic student cooking classes as well.
Katherine Lanca, UC Global Food Initiative fellow working with NPI, attended the 2022 Teaching Kitchen Research Conference as part of her fellowship to learn about the latest research on teaching kitchens supporting equitable health outcomes.
The conference was hosted at UCLA by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Department of Nutrition in association with the Teaching Kitchen Collaborative. Teaching kitchens are a promising approach to supporting food security and cultivating lifelong habits, especially among a college student population./h3>
Yelp ratings give restaurants a boost
Every wonder whether those crowd-sourced reviews online actually make a difference in a business’s bottom line? For restaurants, the answer is an unequivocal yes, according to a new study by UC Berkeley economists. Researchers analyzed restaurant ratings on Yelp.com and found that, on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, a half-star rating increase translates into a 19 percent greater likelihood that an eatery’s seats will be full during peak dining times.
“This is the first study to link online consumer reviews with the popularity of restaurants,” said study lead author Michael Anderson, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Berkeley. “We show that social media sites and forums play an increasingly important role in how consumers judge the quality of goods and services.”
Jeremy Magruder, also an assistant professor the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, analyzed 148,000 Yelp reviews for 328 restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area. Their results, published this summer in the Economic Journal, did not take into account either price or service; they analyzed only the impact of positive Yelp reviews.
The study found that moving from 3 stars to 3.5 stars increases a restaurant’s chance of selling out during prime dining times from 13 percent to 34 percent, and that moving from 3.5 stars to 4 stars increases the chance of selling out during prime dining times by another 19 percentage points. These changes occur even though restaurant quality remains constant.
Not surprisingly, the economists found that crowd-sourced reviews have a bigger impact when there is a lack of alternative information available by which to judge a restaurant’s quality. They also found that restaurants rated in popular guidebooks or newspaper rankings did not see a statistically significant effect from the Yelp rankings.
“If a restaurant has a Michelin star or it appears in the San Francisco Chronicle’s list of Top 100 Restaurants in the Bay Area, the Yelp star becomes irrelevant,” said Magruder. “Those restaurants are relatively famous, and consumers already know them. For restaurants that were not on those established reviews, we actually saw a 27 percent greater likelihood in filled seats during peak dining times with a half-star rating increase on Yelp.”
Could these findings lead to potential manipulation of the ranking system for profit?
“We considered that possibility, and our study indicates that so far, such manipulation is under control,” said Anderson. “There are enough reviews available that it would be difficult to generate enough fake positive reviews to drown out the bad ones. There is also an element of self-policing since customers going to a restaurant on the basis of a good fake review only to be disappointed could submit a bad review. It could be hard for the business owner to sustain the false positives over time.”
The researchers are now looking to expand their analysis beyond eateries to sites such as Amazon.com, Tripadvisor.com and Netflix.com.
Not so sweet: Sugar's dark side
America is paying the price for its growing sweet tooth.
Just look at the rising rates of diabetes and obesity, said speakers at a March 17 symposium, “Sugar Highs and Lows: Dietary Sugars, the Brain, and Metabolic Outcomes,” at UC Davis.
The symposium focused on sugar consumption and its impact on health. The event was sponsored by the Center for Obesity Assessment, Study and Treatment (COAST) at UC San Francisco, the UC Office of the President, UC Berkeley and UC Davis.
UCSF pediatric endocrinologist and COAST researcher Robert Lustig and UC Davis molecular biologist Kimber Stanhope discussed the downsides of a type of sugar called fructose.
“The government pays twice for obesity: first for the corn subsidy (to make high-fructose corn syrup), and then for emergency room heart attacks and health care,” Lustig said.
It’s not just sugar being scrutinized, but also sugar substitutes. Carolyn de la Peña, UC Davis professor of American studies and author of “Empty Pleasures: The Story of Artificial Sweeteners from Saccharin to Splenda,” traced the history of artificial sweeteners. The substitutes are so much sweeter than sugar that they have led to the “incredible sweetening of the American palate,” she said.
For more details on sugar’s impact on health and suggested interventions, view symposium coverage at www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/article/25203.