Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack presented the grants in a keynote address before the 2014 National PTA Legislative Conference in Arlington, VA.
Mr. Vilsack stated, “USDA is at the forefront of the Obama Administration's efforts to combat childhood obesity, which poses a threat to the health and future productivity of our entire nation.” He added, “These grants fund critical research that will help USDA and our partners implement effective strategies to support America's next generation so they can have a healthy childhood and develop healthy habits for life."
The awards announced included:
• University of Tennessee, Knoxville,TN., $4,887,083 – "Get Fruved:" A peer-led, train-the-trainer social marketing intervention to increase fruit and vegetable intake and prevent childhood obesity
• Tufts University, Boston,MA, $149,988 – A using "kids-only" retail coupon study to promote healthy snack options among adolescents in convenience stores: The CHOMPS Pilot Project
• Winston-Salem State University, Winston-Salem, NC, $150,000 – Childhood Health & Obesity Initiative: Communities Engaged for Success, which seeks to help 10-12 year-old children from low-income families.
NIFA made the awards through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Childhood Obesity Prevention program. This year’s funding is focused on supporting research programs aimed at generating new knowledge of behavioral, social and/or environmental factors that influence childhood obesity. All three projects funded this year were required to integrate all three functions of agriculture science: research, education and extension. Award decisions were made through a competitive process based on scientific merit.
USDA also plans to make $9 million available for research, education and extension activities that aim to develop obesity prevention strategies.
AFRI is NIFA's flagship competitive grant program and was established under the 2008 Farm Bill. AFRI supports work in six priority areas: food safety, nutrition and health; plant health and production and plant products; animal health and production and animal products; renewable energy, natural resources and environment; agriculture systems and technology; and agriculture economics and rural communities.
Improving child nutrition is a focal point of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that was signed by President Obama in December 2010. This legislation reauthorizes USDA'S child nutrition programs, including the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program, which serves nearly 32 million children each day. Its goal is to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs by improving the critical nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children. According to USDA, investigating science-based interventions and studying obesity in children can also strengthen these programs.