ALEXANDRIA, La., Sept. 28, 2023 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the opening of a pilot Nutrition Hub under the Agricultural Science Center of Excellence for Nutrition and Diet for Better Health (ASCEND for Better Health) initiative. The Nutrition Hub is being launched in partnership with Southern University, a historically black 1890 Land-grant University in Louisiana, and host of the USDA-funded 1890 Center of Excellence for Nutrition, Health, Wellness and Quality of Life.
USDA’s new Nutrition Hub, informed by community conversations, will be an engine for providing science-based, nutrition-related information at the community level, particularly in underserved communities disproportionately impacted by diet-related chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. Future hubs will concentrate their efforts on additional high-need communities. USDA is following the successful Climate Hubs model that reaches more than 20,000 people yearly. This regional hub network links USDA research and programs to deliver timely, tailored, and authoritative information and decision-making tools.
This Nutrition Hub supports commitments made during the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, which outlined a strategy to prioritize the role of nutrition and food security in overall health including disease prevention and management. It also supports President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot effort to end cancer as we know it by advancing cancer prevention given that an estimated 30 to 50% of all cancers are preventable through healthy eating and lifestyle changes. Through dedicated outreach and engagement efforts, the Hub strives to improve health equity by enabling community members to better understand and integrate USDA-funded nutrition research in culturally responsive ways.
USDA will leverage the Nutrition Hub to increase the impact of its collective human nutrition research programs, develop more precise science-based solutions and resources, and advance the public’s understanding of real-world opportunities and challenges around food, nutrition and diet-related health disparities.
“USDA’s Nutrition Hub promotes health equity for underserved communities powered by more precise nutrition research,” said Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics. “Through this new Hub, we are changing the food landscape by being intentional and thoughtful about ensuring communities have equitable access to the resources they need to enjoy a healthy lifestyle.”
USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) are investing $1 million to hire two full-time Nutrition Hub Co-Directors, one employed by ARS, and one employed by Southern University. This leadership structure enables a close partnership between USDA and Southern University to plan and carry out Hub activities that leverage the strengths, resources and relationships of both organizations. The funding will also support a full-time graduate student at Southern University.
“The Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center is extremely excited and honored to be the first university to house a USDA Nutrition Hub,” said Dr. Orlando F. McMeans, Chancellor-Dean of the Southern University Ag Center and the College of Ag. “This Hub will not only assist in combating diet-related chronic diseases in underserved communities, but it will also provide our students with the experience needed to build a workforce of nutritionists, researchers and extension agents that will aid in closing the nutrition gap in at-risk communities.”
The Nutrition Hub will:
- Develop and share science-based nutrition information and connect communities with food and nutrition security and economic vitality programs.
- Develop relationships and partnerships with organizations that serve African American communities and clearly define community needs and opportunities around food and nutrition.
- Foster research and training opportunities in human nutrition research, particularly in underserved and underrepresented communities.
- Build current and future workforce capacity to enhance collaborations between research and those working on the front lines of community nutrition and health.
Diet-related chronic diseases are prevalent among Americans and pose a major public health problem. Today, 6 in 10 people have at least one chronic disease and 4 in 10 people have two or more chronic diseases. These diseases significantly reduce quality and quantity of life, but many are largely preventable through proper nutrition and healthy living. The primary goal of the Nutrition Hub is to translate nutrition research into impactful solutions that improve public health and well-being, particularly in underserved communities.
USDA continues to enhance its research focus on precision nutrition science to better understand the needs of underserved communities. This research complements USDA’s efforts to advance food and nutrition security by providing consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe and affordable foods essential to optimal health and well-being.
As part of its commitment to ensure equitable access to USDA programs and information, USDA co-hosted four in-person community engagements earlier this year to hear about unique food-related challenges and opportunities in local communities. USDA partnered with Southern University and A&M College, Texas A&M International University and Texas A&M Institute for Advancing Health Through Agriculture, United Tribes Technical College, and 4-H to hold events focused on food, nutrition and health in African American, Hispanic, Native American and youth-based communities.
Feedback from those sessions can inform future research, education, Extension and program efforts that increase food and nutrition security, health equity and well-being of all Americans in ways that recognize and leverage the unique aspects of both individuals and communities.
USDA is hosting an ASCEND for Better Health virtual event today from noon-12:50 p.m. ET on Zoom. This event will convene food, nutrition and health experts to discuss how we can create healthier communities. It will include a live, healthy cooking demonstration. The event is free and open to the public. Registration is required.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean-energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.
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