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USDA Announces $3.8 Million in Grants and Additional $7 Million Available for Critical Research to Prevent Childhood Obesity

WASHINGTON, May 19, 2016 — Six universities have been awarded nearly $4 million in funding by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help fight obesity and improve the health of our nation's children, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today. Secretary Vilsack also announced that USDA is accepting applications for up to $7 million for additional projects next year. This funding is available through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and administered by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

"Decades of research supports the fact that children who are hungry don't do well in the classroom and suffer from related health issues like obesity, diabetes and other serious chronic diseases. USDA has invested and will continue to invest in our children so that all of them, no matter where they are born or what their parents' income levels are, have a shot at a healthy and productive future," said Secretary Vilsack. "Since implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, kids are now eating 16 percent more vegetables and 23 percent more fruit at lunch, more low-income children are benefiting from breakfast and lunch programs, and nearly four million children have access to healthy food in the summer when school is out and meals are scarce. Data show some signs of progress on childhood obesity, particularly among our youngest children, and the projects these researchers are undertaking will ensure we have evidence-based tools to continue moving the dial."

Established by the 2008 Farm Bill and re-authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, AFRI is the nation's premier competitive, peer-reviewed grants program for fundamental and applied agricultural sciences. In the seven years since AFRI was established, the program has led to true innovations and ground-breaking discoveries in agriculture to combat childhood obesity, improve and sustain rural economic growth, address water availability issues, increase food production, find new sources of energy, mitigate the impacts of climate variability and enhance resiliency of our food systems, and ensure food safety.

This round of funding is offered through the AFRI Childhood Obesity Prevention Challenge Area, which supports research to reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents ages 2–19 years. Since 2011, NIFA has awarded more than $165.6 million to the AFRI Childhood Obesity Prevention Challenge Area.

Fiscal year 2015 awards include:

  • University of Kentucky, Lexington, Ky., $746,827
  • University of New England, Biddeford, Maine, $797,995
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, Md., $943,287
  • University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn., $998,484
  • University of Montana, Missoula, Mont., $150,000
  • University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, $150,000

The University of Montana has received funding to design and test the viability of an intervention to improve healthy eating among children in Flathead Indian reservation; a study has shown that 57 percent of American Indian youth ages 5-19 living in Montana are overweight or obese. Part of the University of Montana's plan is to work with the Salish-Kootenai College to teach students about gardening, accessing healthy foods, and preparing and consuming locally produced foods. The University of New England will promote fruit and vegetable purchases and consumption by families in under-resourced communities, reducing health disparities, improving human nutrition, and preventing unhealthy weight gain among children. Find the complete list of this year's project descriptions on NIFA's reporting website.

Applicants for fiscal year 2016 childhood obesity prevention grant proposals should focus on behavioral and environmental approaches to obesity prevention in children. For application deadlines and other information, see the request for applications.

Visit USDA's Medium chapter, Growing a Healthier Future, to learn more about USDA's efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

Science funded by AFRI is vital to meeting food, fiber, and fuel demands as the world's population is projected to exceed nine billion by 2050 and natural resources are stressed under a changing climate. In addition, AFRI programs help develop new technologies and a workforce that will advance our national security, our energy self-sufficiency, and the health of Americans. The President's 2017 budget request proposes to fully fund AFRI for $700 million; this amount is the full funding level authorized by Congress when it established AFRI in the 2008 Farm Bill.

Since 2009, NIFA has invested in and advanced innovative and transformative initiatives to solve societal challenges and ensure the long-term viability of agriculture. NIFA's integrated research, education, and extension programs, supporting the best and brightest scientists and extension personnel, have resulted in user-inspired, groundbreaking discoveries that are combating childhood obesity, improving and sustaining rural economic growth, addressing water availability issues, increasing food production, finding new sources of energy, mitigating climate variability, and ensuring food safety. To learn more about NIFA's impact on agricultural science, visit, sign up for email updates, or follow us on Twitter @usda_NIFA, #NIFAimpacts.


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