Current Research

Current Research

Creating Guidelines to Protect Students from Digital Food Marketing

This year, and likely next, some 51 million students across the country will engage in some form of distance learning to keep them safe from COVID-19. School districts have rushed to procure digital devices and emerging evidence shows a proliferation of educational software, websites and platforms. The massive shift to learning on digital devices makes the need for effective policies to address digital food marketing more urgent than ever. Recent findings from our HER9 -funded research into policies to address digital food marketing to middle-school-aged children found a lack of protection from digital food marketing. We propose to build on these findings through additional information gathering about digital device use and digital food marketing to students during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will scan the latest literature and conduct legal research to develop policy recommendations for state educational agencies and school districts to limit unwanted, harmful digital food marketing to students.

Principal Investigator

Michele Polacsek

Project Period

December 15, 2020-December 14, 2021

RWJF Healthy Eating Research commissioned research project

Grant No. 76655. $50,000.

New Insights Into the Federal Calorie Labeling Law

This grant will make significant contributions by addressing important, unanswered questions

  • What is the precise effect of calorie labeling on calories purchased in restaurants, measured with sufficient power to detect small differences?
  • Are effects similar in chain restaurants and supermarkets?
  • To what extent, if any, do food retailers respond to labeling (e.g., by reformulating items to be lower calorie, introducing new lower-calorie items, or removing items from menus)?
  • Is calorie labeling a cost-effective intervention for reducing obesity?
  • How might calorie labeling influence public social norms about calories and food? The proposed research will be the most comprehensive and objective examination of calorie labeling to date and will make the following five major contributions:
    • 1. Unlike most previous studies, we will evaluate calorie labeling with comprehensive objective transaction data from a range of food establishments, providing sufficient power to detect small but meaningful differences in calories purchased (Aims 1, 2) in diverse geographic regions with large minority populations.
    • 2. This will be the first evaluation of the effects of calorie labeling on supermarket prepared foods (Aims 2, 3).
    • 3. This research will provide the most comprehensive assessment of how different food retailers respond to labeling, including whether they reformulate older products, offer new, lower-calorie products, or remove items from their menus (Aim 3).
    • 4. The study will use the novel results from Aims 1 to 3 to model the effect of calorie labeling on obesity rates and cost effectiveness of labeling (Aim 3).
    • 5. This will be the first study to examine the effect of a national nutrition policy on social norms using internet and social media data (Aim 4).

Primary Investigator

Jason Block, M.D., M.P.H., Harvard Medical School


Michele Polacsek

Project Period

April 1, 2018–March 31, 2023

Grant R01 NIDDK115492-01A1 $3,760,177


CEPH is always expanding its research programs and welcomes collaborators from within and outside of UNE. Please email Michele Polacsek for more information at