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Nutrition and Food Studies Research Benefits New York Communities


This is the second in a series of articles highlighting how Nutrition and Food Studies faculty are combining research insights and applied expertise to bring positive change to New York City. You can find the first article here.

NYU Steinhardt’s Department of Nutrition and Food Studies combines two distinct but related areas of study, allowing faculty and students alike to explore the relationships among human consumption, food systems, culture, and health against the vibrant backdrop of New York City.

Exploring Health Food Access in the Bronx

Angela Trude, assistant professor of nutrition, is working to identify strategies to support healthy eating and purchasing behaviors among families who live in underserved communities. One of her research threads includes collaborating with community-based organizations in the Bronx – such as BronxWorksUnited Neighborhood Houses, and SNAP-Ed New York – to provide families who use or are eligible for the government-run Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) with the tools they need to better access these benefits.

“One way we’re helping families gain better access to healthy foods is helping them use their SNAP benefits through online grocery retailers,” says Trude. “New York was the very first state to be a part of the USDA's SNAP online purchase pilot in 2019, but many families still don't know this is an option for them.”

Trude and her collaborators are helping Bronx families connect with both the SNAP system and participating online retailers, navigate the online food environment, and select healthy foods.

Angela Trude headshot

One way we’re helping families gain better access to healthy foods is helping them use their SNAP benefits through online grocery retailers.

Angela Trude, assistant professor in the nutrition program

“We’re interested in not only whether families are using their SNAP benefits with online grocery stores, but what are they buying when they grocery shop online? Are they selecting more healthy foods, and are they eating them?” says Trude. “In the long term, we also want to know if these behaviors are preventing chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes or addressing food insecurity.”

On a policy level, she also wants to know if financial factors, such as offering dollar-for-dollar discounts for buying healthy foods at online retailers or waiving delivery fees, increase usage of the system.

In a related line of research, Trude is extending this work to smaller food retailers like bodegas, working on a streamlined online platform that makes the ordering and delivery of healthy foods using SNAP easier and more convenient for both customers and shop owners.

Preventing Type 2 Diabetes in Older New Yorkers

Jeannette Beasley is an associate professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies, as well as in the Department of Medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. Through NYU Langone Health, she leads the BRInging the Diabetes Prevention Program to GEriatric Populations (BRIDGE) program, which seeks to determine if a year-long diabetes prevention program designed with the needs of older adults in mind can help older adults with prediabetes lose weight and lower their risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. 

Nearly 30 percent of U.S. adults aged 65 and older (or almost 16 million people) have Type 2 diabetes, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that an additional 26.4 million older adults have prediabetes.

“While evidence-based, diabetes prevention strategies reduce the risk of developing diabetes, they remain underutilized – in part because they’re often offered in person,” says Beasley, a nutritional epidemiologist. “With BRIDGE, we want to see if an alternative, online Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) tailored for older adults with prediabetes works better than traditional, in-person models.”

Jeannette Beasley headshot

[Diabetes prevention strategies] remain underutilized – in part because they’re often offered in person ... We want to see if an alternative, online Diabetes Prevention Program tailored for older adults with prediabetes works better than traditional, in-person models.

Jeannette Beasley, associate professor, Department of Nutrition and Food Studies

preliminary study has already shown that “providing DPP via videoconferencing resulted in high attendance and participant retention, and we observed a significant weight change of 2.9 percent at a rate of 0.2 to 0.5 kilograms per week over the six-week intervention period,” says Beasley. If successful, this kind of technology-based intervention increases the likelihood of reproducibility outside of the NYU Langone Health network and sustainability over time.

The area served by NYU Langone Health includes more than 7.2 million people, including nearly one million individuals who are aged 65 and older. Participants across New York City are seeing benefits from the program, from going on frequent walks with neighbors in their community to finding encouragement and support from their assigned lifestyle coach.

Related Articles

Online Food Shopping Exploded during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Can It Catch On with Bodegas?

Research by assistant professor of nutrition Angela Trude reveals that Bronx bodega owners and customers are excited about online shopping but say cost, technology, and trust are barriers.

Study finds SNAP-eligible families less likely to buy fresh foods—and sweets—when grocery shopping online

Supported by a grant from Healthy Eating Research, the study found that 70% of shoppers were less likely to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as meat and seafood, when shopping online than in person.

Equity Not Charity: Food Studies Alum Leah Kirts on Organizing Community Food Relief

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, Leah joined a mutual aid group in Queens and began organizing mobile food pantries that have since grown to serve 150–200 people weekly. “It’s really simple: anyone who shows up can get food.”

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