Six universities were awarded nearly $4 million in funding by the USDA to help fight obesity and improve the health of American children, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced May 19.
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," Vilsack said.
"Since implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, kids are now eating 16% more vegetables and 23% 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.
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
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.