The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded $2 million in grants today to support research on nutrition education and obesity prevention for disadvantaged children and families at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Utah State University. The funding will help create two new Regional Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Centers of Excellence (RNECE), which have been established through the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) andSupplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. (SNAP)
National Institute of Food and Agriculture director Sonny Ramaswamy was quoted as saying “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 University of Tennessee at Knoxville will receive $1 million to strengthen their existing Snap and EFNEP education programs for low-income families in particular. They will focus on reducing obesity by working to identify facilitators and barriers as well as training and evaluation needs.
In Utah, the State University in Logan will receive $1 million to look at EFNEP and SNAP-ed program participants and non-participants across many different ethnic and racial backgrounds in five states. The research will improve the USDA’s ability to create and maintine effective nutrition education programs and will, ideally, result in participants’ healthier food choices and increased physical activity. Improved health will reduce the incidents of disease and disability thus reducing the overall costs to individuals and the nation’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 Audrey Rowe, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service Administrator. “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.”
The RNECE were established in 2014 with one institution in each of NIFA’s administrative regions and one National Coordination Center, the result of a partnership between the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, NIFA and several participating universities. They exist primarily to research and develop best practices that address issues related to obesity among poor and underrepresented groups.
SNAP-ed, initiated in 1992 exists in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and the Virgin Islands. Nearly 100 agencies deliver the program including public health departments, food banks, non-profit organizations and others.
NIFA invests in agricultural research, education and extension and works every day to make discoveries that solve challenges in society. To learn more about NIFA, visit http://nifa.usda.gov/impacts