The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded $2 million in grants to support research into nutrition education and obesity prevention aimed at disadvantaged children and families.
The University of Tennessee and Utah State University will share the award, with the funding used to create two additional Regional Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Centers of Excellence (RNECE). RNECE will be developed through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).
The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) aims to support and invest in agricultural research and education that contributes to solving societal challenges. RNECE was started in 2014, with one research institution in each of the NIFA’s four administrative regions, plus one National Coordination Center. Through such university partnerships, government agencies expect to develop evidence-based data to support best practices regarding obesity, particularly among poor and under-represented groups.
“Childhood obesity rates in America have tripled over the past three decades,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, the NIFA director, in a USDA news release. “While we are beginning to see promising signs of progress with the epidemic leveling off in children, these grants will help evaluate and strengthen existing nutrition education and obesity prevention efforts to help ensure this progress continues.”
The grant awards stipulate:
- The University of Tennessee at Knoxville (UT) receives $1 million to further develop SNAP and EFNEP nutrition education programs for financially disadvantaged families. The Center’s work will focus on decreasing obesity rates by analyzing programs aimed at identifying facilitators, barriers, best practices, training, and evaluation needs. UT will be responsible for developing and delivering SNAP-Ed and EFNEP interventions, and for adapting and disseminating readiness-to-change resources to organizational, community and neighborhood coalitions, and to supporting and increasing the effectiveness of SNAP-Ed and EFNEP programs.
- Utah State University in Logan, Utah, receives $1 million to compare EFNEP and SNAP-Ed program participants and non-participants of differing ethnic and racial backgrounds across five states. This research is expected to improve the USDA’s ability to evaluate, create, and maintain effective nutrition education programs that promote healthier food choices and physical activities. The USDA believes such lifestyle changes can reduce disease and disabilities, easing costs to individuals and to the U.S. healthcare system.
“With one-third of our nation’s children overweight or obese, this issue stands out as one of the greatest health challenges facing our country,” said USDA Food and Nutrition Service administrator, Audrey Rowe. “As we invest in our nation’s health it is important we leverage partners and innovative strategies to help children from low-income families grow and develop into healthy adults.”