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Research is a critical component of our nutrition security efforts. We are committed to ensuring all we do is driven by research, grounded in science, and informed by analysis and evaluation. This commitment is woven into our policies, informs each of our decisions, strengthens our management of federal nutrition assistance programs, and most importantly, improves every life we touch. Our work is also driven by the lived experiences – of our staff and our stakeholders.

Research Overview

We are committed to furthering our collective understanding of key issues (PDF, 792 KB) around the co-existence of food insecurity and diet-related diseases. Datasets from major USDA studies are available to the research community for public use and we continually seek and support opportunities for analysis and learning outside of USDA.

Select examples of our research, evaluation, monitoring, and surveillance assets are listed below.

  • The USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Human Nutrition Program conducts research on the role food plays in optimizing health.
    • ARS scientists and Texas A&M researchers work together to develop agricultural practices that advance public health and food security in the Responsive Agricultural Food Systems Research Unit.
    • The Children’s Nutrition Research Center in Houston, TX is one of six human nutrition centers funded by ARS. The center investigates rural-urban differences in and association between food security status, food availability, participation in federal nutrition assistance programs, dietary intake and obesity among children across different age groups.
    • ARS also oversees FoodData Central, an integrated data system that provides expanded nutrient profile data and links to related agricultural and experimental research, and collaborates with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on the operation of several nutrition databases.
  • The USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) conducts economic research on numerous topics central to food and nutrition security.

    • ERS anticipates trends and emerging issues in agriculture, food, the environment and rural America and conducts high-quality, objective economic research to inform and enhance public and private decision making.
    • ERS plays a leading role in research and measurement of food security. ERS conducts and analyzes an annual, nationally representative survey on the extent and severity of food insecurity in U.S. households. The results are published in an annual report. The latest edition is Household Food Security in the United States in 2020
  • The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) advances USDA’s goal to tackle food and nutrition insecurity through research, education, extension, and innovation.

    • NIFA partners with land-grant universities, government, private and non-profit organizations to support nutrition science. Their work includes identifying the underlying causes of diet-related chronic diseases, developing culturally competent nutrition education for historically underserved communities, and supporting scientists across all stages of professional development.
  • The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) conducts a variety of studies, evaluations and related activities that respond to the needs of policy makers and managers and help ensure that nutrition assistance programs achieve their goals effectively. Published reports, the annual FNS Research and Evaluation Plans, and information about current data collection efforts are available online.

  • The USDA Office of the Chief Scientist coordinates a food and nutrition-related research strategy across the agency in alignment and support of the Secretary’s priorities and the USDA Strategic Plan FY 22-26 (PDF, 9.6 MB), which includes tackling food and nutrition security.

Selected Research Publications, Articles and Data Collection Efforts

Meaningful Support

Healthy Food

Collaborative Action

Equitable Systems