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Nutrition labels on dining hall food: Are they being used? By who?

Published June 29, 2016
food label
  • University of Illinois dining halls voluntarily label foods with nutrition information.
  • Although 45 percent of students noticed the labels, only 20 percent used the labels. Rates of label awareness and use did not change over the course of the semester.
  • Students who practice health-promoting behaviors like tracking what they eat or exercising frequently are most likely to use nutrition information on food items in the dining hall.
  • Placement of the labels directly in front of the food or above the sneeze guard doesn’t affect label awareness or use.

URBANA, Ill. – Dining halls at the University of Illinois voluntarily label food items with nutrition information but are students using the information to make healthy food choices? A new study shows that students who are already health conscious are the primary users.

“Those who track their food intake by using an app or some other sort of food diary are 6.6 times more likely to use the information on the labels to make food choices. This was the biggest predictor,” says U of I food economist Brenna Ellison. “We also found that students who exercised regularly, ate breakfast, and reported good or excellent eating habits were more likely to use nutrition labels.”

Ellison and her colleagues surveyed 2,729 university students in four different dining halls. “It’s an important population for nutrition studies because they’re developing lifelong habits,” Ellison says.

After students sat down with their trays of food, they were asked to participate in a written survey. About 45 percent of the students surveyed said they saw the labels but only 20 percent used the information on the labels to make food choices. The surveys were conducted during weeks 4, 8, and 12 of a semester.

“We specifically waited to do the first wave until week 4 of the semester so that the newness of eating in the dining hall had worn off and the student’s natural routines had a chance to establish,” Ellison says.

Ellison says data collection was spread out over the semester to provide data on label awareness and usage over time. “Being skeptical, I thought usage of labels might go down over time. It was a pleasant surprise that, even with different people taking the study each week, we continued to see similar rates of noticing and using the label even in week 12 of the semester. Ideally, more people would have used the labels as the semester progressed, but at least it does not appear that students’ awareness and use are going down.”

Of those who didn’t use the labels, 61 percent said that they don’t care about the information, 32 percent said they already know the information, and 25 percent said they didn’t have time to use the information.

“I think that the ‘don’t-care’ factor is an important finding,” Ellison says. “We know that 80 percent of the ‘don’t care’ respondents exercised at least once a week, but only 12 percent had taken a college-level nutrition course. So is more education needed? Will it make a difference? Our results suggest promoting other behaviors such as exercise or tracking intake may also encourage label use.”

Ellison says this is the first study on dining hall nutrition labeling to look at the relationship between label use and sleep, stress, and exercise.

“With those who exercise, there was a dose response. The more often you exercise, the more likely you are to use the labels. We expected this because people who practice one good behavior are likely to practice a suite of healthy behaviors.

“We didn’t know if stress would be a good or a bad influence,” she says. “We thought someone under high stress wouldn’t have time to look at labels, but what we found is that people who perceived themselves as having higher stress paid more attention to the labels. We didn’t find a big effect with sleep, but the survey only captures one data point per person, so it may not represent a regular pattern of sleep.”

The survey also asked students what information they wanted to see on labels.

“We found it interesting that the people who didn’t use the labels wanted a lot of the information that was already available to them,” Ellison says. “They were more likely to say that they wanted vegan and vegetarian items, locally sourced items, and ingredients labeled—information that was already on the labels or available through the dining hall website.”

The impetus for the study was to learn if label placement makes a difference in students’ awareness. Two of the four dining halls in the study placed nutrition labels above the sneeze guard. The other two dining halls placed the labels directly in front of the food. Ellison says placement doesn’t matter after all.

“We thought that students couldn’t help but see a label near the food,” Ellison says. “If anything, placing the labels closer to the food became problematic.” She says food such as pasta sauce regularly splashed onto the label, making more of a mess for the dining hall staff having to remove or replace the labels in the middle of a lunch period. “For practical purposes, it’s good that label placement doesn’t matter. They really need to be placed above the sneeze guard to keep them clean and legible.”

“The Influence of Nutrition Label Placement on Awareness and Use among College Students in a Dining Hall Setting” appears in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It was co-authored by Mary Christoph, Brenna Ellison, and Erica Nehrling Meador.

The research was supported by USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant no. ILLU-470-356 and by the USDA NIFA AFRI Childhood Obesity Prevention Challenge grant no. 2011-67001-30101.

Eichelberger to enter National 4-H Hall of Fame for lifelong dedication

Published June 28, 2016
Lila Jeanne Eichelberger
Lila Jeanne Eichelberger

Sometimes greatness comes in a very small package, wrapped in humility and gentleness.

An Illinois 4-H supporter will be honored with the nation’s top 4-H award, the National 4-H Hall of Fame Award which recognizes individuals who have made a signification impact on the 4-H program and 4-H members through their contribution of time, talent, energy, and financial resources.

Lila Jeanne Eichelberger will be inducted into the 2016 Hall of Fame class at a ceremony Oct. 7 in Chevy Chase, Maryland.  Known as “Shorty” around the University of Illinois campus because of her 5-foot frame, Eichelberger stands as a giant among her peers for her philanthropic efforts to support 4-H and the university.

Her 4-H background traces back to her mother’s volunteer 4-H leadership and continues to this day as a member emeritus of the Illinois 4-H Foundation board of directors and supporter of several 4-H endeavors.

“Rarely has Illinois 4-H seen an individual make such a lifelong impact on the lives of young people as has Lila Jeanne,” says Angie Barnard, Illinois 4-H Foundation executive director. “A woman of remarkable grace, Lila Jeanne tirelessly campaigns with her time, energy, and financial resources for the advancement of Illinois 4-H, 4-H Memorial Camp, 4-H House, University of Illinois, and Illini sports.”

Eichelberger credits 4-H with shaping her career choices and leading her to U of I where she received two degrees and an advanced certificate. She taught home economics for 40 years. She married the late Paul Eichelberger.

"Paul was the love of my life; we shared so many interests—one key one being Fighting Illini sports," Eichelberger says. "Neither of us would be the person we became if it had not been for sports, 4-H, or the University of Illinois."

For more than 80 years, Eichelberger has proudly worn her flagship 4-H green and paid it forward for the advancement of youth, Barnard says. “She has been a constant inspiration to the Illinois 4-H Foundation board of directors for the past 33 years, first as a board member, and continuing as a lifetime member-emeritus.”

Eichelberger knows U of I and knows how to get things done. Today, at 88, she actively participates in each Foundation board meeting and arranges donor meetings in conjunction with the executive director and 4-H advancement officer, using her influence to encourage private donations to Illinois 4-H.

She has made financial gifts to U of I and to Illinois 4-H every year for 50 years. In total, her giving to 4-H alone exceeds $2 million. In 2000, she created an endowment to honor her late mother, a 50-year 4-H leader. Today, she continues to add value with an estate commitment to endow the Margarette E. Athey 4-H Adult Volunteer Leader Development Fund at over a quarter-million dollars.

As a student, Lila Jeanne thrived at U of I and as a member of 4-H House. Today, she actively supports 4-H college scholarships for youth to learn. A permanent endowment of more than $25,000 will support 4-H Legacy of Leadership youth scholarships in perpetuity. She continues to stay involved with the 4-H House Alumni Association as a 10-plus year member of the board, volunteer property manager, and mentor to girls who strive to further their 4-H leadership skills in a cooperative living environment during college.

In 1998, she played an integral role as the key liaison moving the Foundation from an independent organization to the umbrella of the U of I. “She challenges fellow board members to ask, and answer, the hard questions of fundraising,” Barnard says.

Of her many accomplishments, Eichelberger served on the steering committee for the Illinois 4-H Memorial Camp “Remember CAMPaign” where she not only made her own generous commitment, but helped to raise funds to renovate the historic dining hall facility at 4-H Memorial Camp. An 11-year Mason County 4-H member, Eichelberger served as one of the first camp counselors at Western Illinois 4-H Camp. 4-H Memorial Camp will be the beneficiary of a $75,000 gift from her estate to further the arts activities at camp. A $30,000 donation funded two new cabins named to honor her late husband and mother.

“The instant you meet Lila Jeanne Eichelberger your personal definition of genuineness is shattered and the bar is raised higher than you had it before,” says Curt Sinclair, 4-H Memorial Camp director. “Nothing in the mile-long list of her accomplishments is self-serving. 

“My personal experience with her is entwined by our common belief in the incredible power 4-H camping programs can have in the lives of young people, both campers and counselors,” Sinclair says. “Her purely genuine spirit of the 4-H pledge; that of head, heart, hands, and health, mentors us all.”    

Eichelberger is a strong supporter of Illini athletics. Her most recent contribution of $2 million provided funding to build Eichelberger Field, the women’s softball complex. She also supports baseball, volleyball, basketball, tennis, and actively mentors student athletes.

Eichelberger served youth throughout her 40-year teaching career. She was named Illinois Home Economics Teacher of the Year in 1974 and served as Illinois Future Homemakers of America State Advisor in 1956-57. Along with an active professional career, she has been an engaged member of the community. Among her memberships are U of I Alumni Association, U of I President’s Council, Fighting Illini Scholarship Fund Tribal Council, U of I Courtsiders, Fighting Illini Dugout Club, Phi Upsilon Omicron Pi Alumni Association, Beta Mu of Delta Kappa Gamma, and Kappa Delta Pi.

In addition, Eichelberger serves as an election judge, volunteer for Meals on Wheels, and active member of her church.  She has a remarkable commitment to generating funds for organizations closest to her heart. She continues to devote her life to the betterment of all Illinois youth today and into the future through her sustained philanthropy.

Always a visionary, Eichelberger actively spoke out in support of increasing local tax-base funding for local Extension programs. In recognition of her tireless service, she received the Illinois 4-H Foundation Friend of Illinois 4-H Award in 1999 and Hall of Fame award in 2005.

"Anyone who knows me knows that I bleed Illini orange and blue and 4-H green," Eichelberger says. "It is an honor to have Paul's and my legacy live on through a gift from our estate. If we are remembered for just one thing, I hope it will be a commitment to the development of the next generation of young people."

The award is sponsored by the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents, National 4-H Council, and National 4-H Headquarters. Since its inception in 2002, only 322 people have received the national recognition.




News Source:

Angie Barnard, 217-333-0333

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension

Donations provide stopgap funding for U of I autism program

Published June 27, 2016
child walking alone

URBANA, Ill. - The Autism Program (TAP) at the University of Illinois was about to become another casualty of the state budget crisis. The program had already made serious cuts to stay afloat this summer.  It was announced June 24 that a significant gift from a private donor to the U of I College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences will help fund The Autism Program for the coming year.

“Although this is very good news indeed, there is still a need for funding,” says Linda Tortorelli, director of The Autism Program. “Although the amount contributed allows us to stay open, it is only a stopgap, the need still exists. State funding is still critical.”

Tortorelli took a sizeable cut in her own salary so that the program could continue. She has been working for half of her salary and was planning to go to 25-percent pay July 1.

 “We greatly appreciate the collection of donors, including Carle Foundation, Christie Foundation, grateful parents, and U of I partners, that made it possible for the program to continue this year. We’ll be working diligently to create a sustainable funding plan for the future,” adds Tortorelli.

The Urbana-based program remained open since last July without a contract or state grant funding, partly by making cuts and with some donation boosts, but announced last month it was about out of money.

The Autism Program provides statewide services. In fact, in fiscal year 2014, TAP served residents of each of Illinois’s 102 counties.  The program provides hundreds of screenings and full diagnostic procedures; trains thousands of parents, educators, health care professionals, day care providers and first responders; and provides services such as social skills groups, ABA therapy, and sibling groups that help children with autism better relate to their families, their peers, and others.

The TAP network of families and partners has worked to obtain millions of dollars in additional grant funding. 

For more information about the program, visit the website.


Modest pork expansion, but Brexit casts shadow

Published June 27, 2016

URBANA, Ill. – In the June Hogs and Pigs survey, pork producers told USDA they had increased the size of the breeding herd by 1 percent relative to year-ago levels. The breeding herd began to increase in the fall of 2014 after producers had record profitability due to reduced production, a consequence of the PED virus. According to a Purdue University Extension economist, the industry has been in a slow expansion since that time. Declining feed prices were also a stimulus to expansion until this spring when feed prices began to rise once more.

“The latest inventory report also found somewhat more young pigs than had been expected,” says Chris Hurt. “The spring pig crop was 2.5 percent larger as a result of 1.5 percent more farrowings and 1 percent more pigs per litter. This means a bit higher pork supplies later this year than had been anticipated.”

Several states had a large increase in their breeding herd numbers over the last year. These included Illinois with an increase of 40,000 animals; Oklahoma up 30,000; and South Dakota up 20,000. The percentage increases for those three states were Illinois up 8 percent; Oklahoma up 7 percent; and South Dakota up 12 percent.

“Although they are expanding the breeding herd, pork producers also indicated they intend to reduce farrowings by 2 percent this summer and by 1 percent in the fall,” Hurt continues. “Pork supplies in the last half of 2016 are expected to be up about 2 percent. However, pork supplies in the first half of 2017 are expected to be near unchanged.”

Prices of hogs averaged about $55.50 in the second quarter of 2016 on a live-weight basis. Prices are expected to average $55 to $58 in the third quarter and then fall sharply in the final quarter to an average of $45 to $48. First-quarter 2017 prices are expected to be modestly higher compared to late 2016. Prices for the second quarter of 2017 are expected to average in a range from $52 to $56.

“Feed costs have become more volatile with weather uncertainties and will likely be important to the overall profits or losses for the industry in the coming year,” Hurt says. “Using current futures prices to estimate cash feed prices suggests that the industry will operate with a profit of about $8 per head in the third quarter, but lower fourth-quarter hog prices will mean losses of about $19 per head. Losses would prevail at about the same level in the first quarter of 2017 and then move close to breakeven prices in the second quarter. Estimated losses for farrow-to-finish operations last year was a modest $3 per head. Current estimates for 2016 are for losses of $4 per head.

“Turning to pork demand, two events seem likely to have some impact,” Hurt says. “The first is the question of how much pork the Chinese will purchase this summer and how long their internal pork shortage will continue. The second event regards the impact of Brexit on the U.S. pork markets. The U.S. exports little pork to the EU28 trading block. In 2015, only 0.2 percent of U.S. pork exports were destined for EU28 countries. However, Brexit has strengthened the U.S. dollar making U.S. pork more expensive around the globe. This will tend to increase prices for U.S.-origin pork and reduce U.S. exports from what they would have been.”

Hurt says that since the Brexit announcement, the dollar has increased by about 3.5 percent relative to the Euro. The 28 member countries in the European Union have been the largest exporters of pork in the world for the last two years. This has given the 19 countries in the EU28 that use the Euro an immediate price advantage over U.S. pork.

“Said another way, Brexit gives our biggest global pork competitor a sizable and immediate price advantage,” Hurt says. “The longer-term economic implications of Brexit may be the most important and could reduce the rate of world economic growth. If Brexit does slow world income growth, it could be negative for global sales of pork and other U.S. agricultural products.”

Agronomy Day 2016 field tour topics announced

Published June 27, 2016
agronomy day location
New location of 2016 Agronomy Day at 4202 S. 1st St., Savoy IL

URBANA, Ill. – Have questions about pest resistance or curious about the use of drones in agriculture? Plan to hear more on these and other topics related to crop sciences at the 59th annual Agronomy Day at the University of Illinois on August 18.

Field tour topics and speakers for Agronomy Day 2016 were recently announced. Topics include:

TOUR A      

  • Cataloging the weapons arsenal of the Fusarium head blight pathogen
  • Genetic resistance for northern leaf blight and Goss’ wilt in corn
  • Stripe rust and scab resistance in wheat
  • Bt resistance in corn rootworm beetles
  • Nematodes: How does the worm turn?


  • Nitrogen management: Balancing profitability with sustainability
  • Economics of nutrient management
  • Land values
  • Six weed management predictions to keep you up at night
  • Investigating low crop emergence in edamame


  • The show must go on: Balancing water use under continuously changing environmental conditions
  • Cover crops for soybean and corn rotation
  • Soybean planting date and variety maturity
  • Managing soybeans for high yields
  • Drone information and demonstration


*Offered at 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. (tentative) with limited availability, as attendees will be transported offsite to SoyFACE. Attendees will need to sign up in advance at the registration table. Tours will last one hour.

  • What is SoyFACE?
  • Improving maize tolerance in air pollution
  • CO2
  • Improving drought tolerance and water use efficiency in C4 crops

For a full list of this year’s speakers and topics, visit

Agronomy Day attracts more than 1,000 people each year seeking the latest information on technology and techniques to improve food and fuel production. This year, agronomy day will be held in a new location at 4202 South 1st Street in Savoy, Illinois. For more information on speakers, displays, and location, join Agronomy Day 2016 on Facebook or visit the Agronomy Day website.


News Source:

Bob Dunker, 217-244-5444

ACE Departmental Seminar - Dr. Ron Alquist

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
426-428 Mumford Hall

The Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics
Seminar Series is proud to present

Dr. Ron Alquist
Chief Economist
Kings Peak Asset Management

Title:  Commodity-Price Comovement and Global Economic Activity (joins with O. Coibion)

Friday, September 16, 2016
12:00-1:00 p.m.
426-428 Mumford Hall

If you are interested in visiting with Dr. Alquist, please contact Melissa Warmbier at

Pizza will be served.

Latest NRES Bulletin Available

Published June 24, 2016
Alma Mater in Illini cap and gown
NRES Congratulates all 2016 Graduates!

View the latest edition of the NRES Bulletin e-newsletter online.

If you have content or ideas for future issues (next due out in early Fall Semester 2016), submit them to Lezli Cline at

News Source:

Lezli Cline, 217-244-6254