What we do
The Global Food Research Program at UNC works towards our mission by developing in-depth longitudinal research in collaboration with partners around the globe and by providing technical assistance to universities, organizations, and governments on large-scale obesity prevention efforts. A hallmark of our research has been understanding how changes in nutrition-related behaviors affect various socioeconomic strata of society and how these behaviors and outcomes affect health disparities. Historically, we have focused on in-depth studies of trends in dietary and food purchasing patterns, race-ethnic- and income-related disparities, and the impact of an array of policies and programs on food purchases and diets. Our focus is increasingly on the design and evaluation of large-scale policy and regulatory options to improve diet quality across populations, with a focus on reducing consumption of ultra-processed foods and beverages.
In-Depth Longitudinal Studies
- Our studies (both US and global) have focused on policy, program, and project evaluation of voluntary industry efforts and well as government taxation of sugary beverages and junk food, mandatory front-of-package labeling, marketing restrictions, and other guidelines issued by various governmental bodies.
- We also have decades of experience with longitudinal cohort studies including in-depth dietary and other data, in various countries:
- China, Russia, and the Philippines
- Chile (worked jointly to create and help fund cohort studies and national surveys and analyze results)
- In the past decade, we have developed a “factory-to-fork” system in the United States to explore the changing dynamics of food purchasing patterns and dietary intake:
- We have linked packaged and processed food and beverage purchases to What We Eat in America to monitor nutritional changes in Americans’ grocery purchases, overall and among key sub-populations.
- We have developed a deeper understanding of the nature of food purchased: processing, convenience, content of specific ingredients and nutrients (e.g., caloric/low calorie sweeteners and sodium), and other health-related dimensions of the foods we purchase and consume.
- We have used these unique skills and experience in working with food purchase data and expanded globally to evaluate impacts of nutrition-related policy interventions, to study dynamic shifts in food systems, and to attempt to understand the rapidity of changes in global diets.
- Wherever we work, in the United States or globally, we always work hand-in-hand with local partners. Examples of current research partners include:
- China: The National Institute of Nutrition and Health, China CDC
- Mexico: Center for Nutrition and Health Research, National Institute of Public Health
- Chile: The Institute for Nutrition and Food Technology, University of Chile
- Colombia: Faculty of Medicine, Pontifical Javeriana University
- Brazil: Center for Epidemiological Studies in Health and Nutrition (NUPENS), School of Public Health, University of Sao Paulo
- South Africa: Priority Cost Effective Lessons for Systems Strengthening (Priceless), Wits School of Public Health
- Jamaica and Barbados: Caribbean Institute for Health Research (CAIHR)
- Russia: Higher School of Economics and Institute of Sociology, Russian Academy of Sciences
We also provide technical assistance on large-scale regulatory activities to governmental entities in the United States as well as countries across the globe.
- Create fact sheets summarizing research related to taxation, marketing bans, and other policy options
- Provide scientific commentary and support on proposed nutrition policies
- Assist government ministries in drafting evidence-based regulations, including:
- Fiscal policies such as sugary drink and/or ultra-processed food taxes
- Policies to restrict marketing for unhealthy foods/drinks
- Front-of-package labeling/profiling systems