USDA announces grants for childhood obesity prevention programs

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on March 26 the USDA awarded $9 million in grants to develop childhood obesity intervention programs through colleges and universities in 12 states and Puerto Rico. The grants are funded through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), the flagship competitive grant program authorized under the 2014 Farm Bill.

“One-third of the children in the United States are overweight or obese, making this issue one of the greatest health challenges facing our nation,” said Vilsack. “It is critical that we make the effort to help our children be healthy kids and develop into healthy adults,” said Vilsack.

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) made the awards through the AFRI Childhood Obesity Prevention Challenge Area. Fiscal year 2014 awards include:

  • California State University, Chico, Calif., $149,890
  • University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley, Calif., $777,508
  • University of California-Davis, Davis, Calif., $690,537
  • Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo., $990,984
  • University of Connecticut, Mansfield, Conn., $149,603
  • Florida International University, Miami, Fla., $150,000
  • University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, Fla., $584,661
  • University of Illinois, Champaign, Ill., $448,385
  • Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, $693,768
  • Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., $833,509
  • Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., $969,157
  • Duke University, Durham, N.C., $50,000
  • Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa., $870,473
  • Ponce School of Medicine, Ponce, Puerto Rico, $149,889
  • Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tenn., $149,668
  • Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, $840,957
  • Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, $906,530

NIFA anticipates making $42 million available over the next five years for the AFRI Childhood Obesity Prevention Challenge Area, with the expectation that the new projects awarded this fiscal year would receive additional funds (based on available funding) if they achieve project objectives and milestones.

This year’s projects include the University of Miami School of Medicine’s project, a train-the-trainer model to deliver the evidence-based “Healthy Caregivers, Healthy Children” early childhood obesity prevention toolkit to low-income, multiethnic children. California State University will also create strategies for promoting healthy eating behaviors among children and families in the Hispanic community through classroom and at-home activities.

Find a complete list of this year’s project descriptions here.

Successful projects funded in previous years include the University of Maine’s iCook project which developed online tools to encourage families to cook, eat, and exercise together while improving culinary skills and increasing physical activity; and Oregon State University’s project, Generating Rural Options for Weight-Healthy Kids and Communities (GROW HKC), which implemented an obesity intervention program in three counties to promote healthy eating and increase physical activity, ultimately improving body mass indexes among rural children aged 5 to 8 years old.

In February 2015, NIFA made $6 million available for childhood obesity prevention research, education, and extension activities through the fiscal year 2015 AFRI request for applications.

AFRI supports research, education, and extension work by awarding grants that address key problems of national, regional, and multi-state importance in sustaining all components of food and agriculture. AFRI supports work in six priority areas: 1) plant health and production and plant products; 2) animal health and production and animal products; 3) food safety, nutrition, and health; 4) bioenergy, natural resources, and environment; 5) agriculture systems and technology; and 6) agriculture economics and rural communities.

The announcement was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing, and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education, and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people’s daily lives and the nation’s future. For more information, visit

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