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USDA Awards $2 Million for Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Research

Press Release
Release No.
USDA 0327.15
Contact: FNS Press Team

Washington, DC, November 23, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today awarded $2 million in grants to support research on nutrition education and obesity prevention for disadvantaged children and families at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Utah State University. The funding will help create two additional Regional Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Centers of Excellence (RNECE), established through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).

"Childhood obesity rates in America have tripled over the past three decades," said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. "While we are beginning to see promising signs of progress with the epidemic leveling off in children, these grants will help evaluate and strengthen existing nutrition education and obesity prevention efforts to help ensure this progress continues."

The awards include:

  • University of Tennessee at Knoxville (UT) will receive $1 million to strengthen SNAP and EFNEP nutrition education programs for low-income families. The Center will focus on reducing obesity by analyzing programs to identify facilitators, barriers, best practices, training and evaluation needs. UT will develop and disseminate resources tailored to the needs of those delivering SNAP-Ed and EFNEP interventions and adapt and disseminate readiness-to-change resources to strengthen organizational, community and neighborhood coalitions and provide resources to increase intercultural competence in SNAP-Ed and EFNEP implementation.
  • Utah State University in Logan, Utah will receive $1 million to compare EFNEP and SNAP-Ed program participants and non-participants with a variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds across five states. This research will improve USDA's ability to evaluate, create and maintain effective nutrition education programs that result in healthier food choices and increased physical activity for participants. These lifestyle changes will lead to improved health and reduced incidence of disease and disability, reducing costs to individuals and the nation's healthcare system.

"With one-third of our nation's children overweight or obese, this issue stands out as one of the greatest health challenges facing our country," said USDA Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Audrey Rowe. "As we invest in our nation's health it is important we leverage partners and innovative strategies to help children from low-income families grow and develop into healthy adults."

The RNECE were established in 2014 with one research institution in each of NIFA's four administrative regions and one National Coordination Center. The Centers are the result of a partnership between USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), NIFA and the participating universities. Through these research centers the agencies expect to develop evidence-based data to support best practices that mitigate issues leading to obesity, particularly among poor and underrepresented groups.

SNAP-Ed was initiated in 1992 and is administered by participating state SNAP agencies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. SNAP-Ed is delivered by nearly 100 implementing agencies including land-grant universities in 47 states, public health departments, food banks, non-profit organizations, and others. EFNEP was started in 1969 and is administered by 1862 and 1890 land-grant institutions in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and six U.S. territories.

FNS administers 15 nutrition assistance programs. In addition to SNAP these programs include the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); National School Lunch and Breakfast programs; and the Summer Food Service Program that together comprise America's nutrition safety net. Improving the diets of participants is a key component of USDA's nutrition assistance programs.

NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and extension and seeks to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges. To learn more about NIFA's impact on agricultural science visit

Page updated: February 03, 2023