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News Release

Release No. 0181.10
Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

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USDA Awards Grants to Develop Obesity Prevention Programs

WASHINGTON, April 13, 2010 - USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced steps to develop and evaluate America's obesity prevention programs. The goal is to identify the behavioral factors that influence obesity, in order to help prevent it.

"The health of our nation depends on the health of our families and it's imperative that we address the obesity crisis impacting our country," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "I'm optimistic that these research grants will help develop effective obesity prevention strategies and the tools that we need for measuring our progress in the battle against obesity."

The $11 million in grants announced today are being awarded through NIFA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Human Nutrition and Obesity program to develop effective obesity prevention strategies along with behavioral and environmental instruments for measuring progress in obesity prevention efforts. The program also promotes strategies for preventing weight gain and obesity.

Funded projects include an obesity prevention trial for American Indian communities at Johns Hopkins University, a study at Colorado State University to determine if nutrition and physical activity behaviors learned in preschool are sustained through elementary school and a study at the University of Miami targeted toward changing the nutritional behaviors of caregivers.

The Fiscal Year 2009 grants were awarded to:

  • University of California, Davis, Calif., $1,450,000; This project will develop pediatric obesity risk assessment tools and nutrition education materials for low-literacy families for dietary improvement and behavioral change.
  • Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, Colo., $1,498,898; This project will look at the effectiveness of two programs that use predictive behaviors of food preference and motor performance and how they can be applied to other programs.
  • University of Miami, Miami, Fla., $1,000,000; The long-term goal of this project is to develop, test and evaluate obesity prevention interventions used in an early child-care setting, targeting low-income, multiethnic children.
  • Society for Nutrition Education, Indianapolis, Ind., $10,000; This program brought together four effective obesity prevention programs that emphasize the importance of self-esteem and having a positive body image as the starting point for an effective program in preventing obesity and eating disturbances in children, tweens or teens at the Society's national conference. Each presenter gave a description of their program, highlighted at least one activity, and focused on the strengths of the approach. They also included how the program was evaluated and how it can be or has been adapted to non-school settings.
  • Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md., $1,211,949; The goal of this study is to improve our understanding of behavioral and environmental factors that influence obesity in high-risk American Indian communities and to use this information to develop an effective obesity prevention program.
  • University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo., $432,171; Through the research conducted at food banks in Missouri, this project aims to develop effective obesity prevention and improvement strategies among food bank clients. The interventions emphasized in the project will emphasize more consumption of fresh fruits and vegetable and lean meats and low-fat dairy products.
  • Columbia University, New York, N.Y., $1,497,055; Two innovative curriculums will be utilized in classrooms to help students understand the relationship of food and exercise.
  • Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., $499,927; To address the obesity epidemic, this project addresses the problem from an ecological approach, which encompasses all factors in the environment rather than solely focusing on informing individual behavior. A six-week training course will be taught to teams of extension professionals and community partners to use this novel method of obesity prevention.
  • University of Nevada, Reno, Nev., $1,100,00; This proposal intends to expand and disseminate an established intervention program in a preschool setting, test the reliability of a preschool movement assessment instrument, and improve our understanding of family behaviors that influence adoption of obesity prevention behaviors.
  • University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa., $1,400,000; This project will engage communities in two urban Philadelphia neighborhoods to expand the general understanding of nutrition, obesity and health among community members. The researchers will engage neighborhoods in developing a project demonstrating the policy and environmental changes needed to increase access to healthy foods and improved activity environments.
  • University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tenn., $900,000; Infant formula, when not prepared correctly, can be a source of too many calories, potentially contributing to childhood obesity. This study will assess how mothers prepare formula, teach them about proper infant formula preparation and develop learning modules to change knowledge and attitudes.

Last month, First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Let's Move! campaign to end childhood obesity within a generation so that children born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight. The campaign has four primary tenets: helping parents make healthy food choices, serving healthier food in schools; improving access to healthy, affordable food; and increasing physical activity. The Administration has introduced its plans to improve school meals, introduced a financing initiative to reduce food deserts, implemented new research tools that detail local food environments and health outcomes, including grocery store access and disease and obesity prevalence, and announced a broad range of public/private commitments to solve America's childhood obesity epidemic. Learn more by visiting

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. For more information, visit


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