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 www.usda.gov/farmbill.

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 www.nifa.usda.gov.

Prevention of Obesity in Infancy, Early Childhood: Workshop summary and funding announcement

Once obesity develops it is likely to persist. Given this understanding, there has been an increasing focus on preventing obesity in infancy and early childhood. Research to develop and implement effective prevention and intervention strategies in the first two years after birth has been limited.

In fall 2013, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases convened a multidisciplinary workshop to summarize the current state of knowledge regarding the prevention of infant and early childhood obesity and to identify research gaps and opportunities. A workshop summary was recently published in the March 2015 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics. A related funding opportunity announcement was also released.

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Connect & Explore: First Findings from USDA’s FoodAPS

NCCOR webinar reveals insights from Department of Ag’s FoodAPS data, as well as new research opportunities made possible by the first-of-its-kind survey

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) is the first-ever nationally representative and comprehensive survey of American households’ food purchases and acquisitions. This robust and first-of-its-kind dataset enables scientists to conduct research studies that support the design and implementation of policies and regulations affecting America’s food and nutrition assistance programs.

The survey includes nationally representative data from nearly 5,000 households, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households, low-income households not participating in SNAP, and higher-income households. Continue reading

An in-depth look at the latest Lancet Series on Obesity

NCCOR’s Connect & Explore Webinar on Feb. 23 provided the first public forum to connect with authors from the recently released Lancet Series on Obesity.

The series discusses reasons for scarce progress; reviews regulatory, non-regulatory, and quasi-regulatory actions; identifies high-priority actions; challenges entrenched dichotomies; and proposes a reframing of obesity. Each paper in the six-part series challenges the current, rather simplistic “either or” obesity solutions; generates new perspectives; and highlights examples to spur policy makers to take action. Continue reading

Society of Behavioral Medicine announces NIH mHealth Training Institute, presidential roundtable, and exhibit featuring NCCOR

From training on mobile health (mHealth) technology to a presidential roundtable on National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) activities, resources, and funding opportunities, the upcoming Society of Behavioral Medicine’s (SBM) 36th Annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions in San Antonio will offer numerous opportunities to connect with NCCOR.

SBM kicks off with a preconference training on the use of mHealth technologies to prevent childhood obesity. Mentored by expert faculty, the “NIH mHealth Training Institute” will include presentations followed by hands-on experience developing an mHealth research project. Continue reading

Rethinking Obesity Prevention—The Second Lancet Series on Obesity

NCCOR’s Connect & Explore Webinar unpacks The Lancet special issue, discussing how public support for policy actions and new thinking can move the needle on obesity

Despite reported areas of decline, no country has reversed its obesity epidemic. Researchers increasingly believe that governments and stakeholders should act urgently to decrease the prevalence of obesity, including childhood obesity. Papers in the new Lancet series review the growing consensus on core policy actions, reasons for patchy progress, and opportunities to aid obesity prevention.

The Lancet Series examines the competing perspectives on the causes and solutions for obesity and why rethinking our approaches is critical to reversing the epidemic. From regulatory action to empowering the public, the authors highlight opportunities to break the cycle of demand for foods of poor nutritional quality and move the focus toward changing food environments. Continue reading

NCCOR hosts March 2 seminar to explore ‘Bridging the Food Industry-Public Health Divide’

Join the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF), Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), and Hudson Institute for the first seminar in a quarterly series: “Articulating the Food Industry Context: Potential Frameworks for Profiting Health.” The first event, “Bridging the Food Industry-Public Health Divide: A Guide to More Effective Engagement and Policies,” will be led by Hank Cardello, Director of Hudson’s Obesity Solutions Initiative, and will be hosted by the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR). Cardello will be joined by panelists Wendy Johnson-Askew, Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Nestle and Richard Black, Vice President, Global Nutrition, PepsiCo.

The seminar will be held March 2, 1:30-3:30 p.m. at FHI 360, 1825 Connecticut Ave. NW, 8th Floor, Vista Room, Washington, DC. Continue reading

NCCOR publishes white paper to complement Healthy Eating Index photo series

By visualizing the quality of the American diet and exploring findings from the Healthy-Eating Index-2010 (HEI-2010), researchers and the public can both benefit, according to a new white paper.

“Visualizing Diet Quality at Multiple Levels of the Food Stream” uses HEI-2010 – a scoring metric developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Cancer Institute (NCI) – to assess diet quality in relation to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). It is the latest installment in a series of communication products developed by the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research in conjunction with NCI.

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Kids eat more healthful foods during longer, quieter school lunch

Nov. 27, 2014, The Washington Post

It’s hard to get kids to eat healthful foods, especially at school. But a new study suggests that, by changing the lunch environment, schools can encourage kids to make better choices without even changing their menus.

This study, conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, found that students buying school lunches select a fruit or vegetable only about half the time, and even then most don’t eat even a single bite. Continue reading