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USDA Announces Grant to Develop Obesity Prevention Program at Oregon State University

Program to Improve the Health and Wellbeing of Children in Rural Oregon 

Media Contact: Jennifer Martin, (202) 720-8188

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2010 – Roger Beachy, director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), today awarded funding to Oregon State University researchers to develop an obesity prevention program for children in rural Oregon.

Childhood obesity is a problem many families face across the nation; however, children in rural areas face obstacles such as access to fresh healthy foods and physical activity and recreational programs that help in fighting obesity,” Beachy said. “I am pleased to announce this award today which is taking steps to help rural children and families in Oregon lead healthy lives.”

NIFA awarded OSU researchers Deborah John and Kathy Gunter $4,878,865 to start “Generating Rural Options for Weight-Healthy Kids and Communities” (GROW HKC), which will work with Cooperative Extension in six Western states to engage rural people in community-based research to assess features in rural communities that either prevent or promote obesity and community resources and readiness that could help with prevention efforts. The team will take these assessments and implement an obesity intervention program in three counties in Oregon to promote healthy eating and increase physical activity with the end goal to improve body mass index among rural children aged 5-8 years old.

Rural communities pose unique challenges for residents that differ from those faced by individuals residing in urban areas. Many lack access to fresh, nutritious food and it is difficult to walk or bike to destinations and participate in physical activity and recreational sport programs. Furthermore, features of rural schools, particularly those in under-resourced communities, are such that students often face long bus commutes, minimal or no provision of health and physical education by certified teachers and few resources to support health and/or enrich the academic environment.

The grant is awarded through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). AFRI’s childhood obesity prevention supports single-function research, education and extension projects; multi-function integrated research, education and extension projects; and Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement (FASE) grants. FASE grants are designed to help institutions develop competitive research, education, extension, and integrated projects and attract new scientists and educators into careers in high-priority areas of need in agriculture, food, and environmental sciences. The long-term outcome for this program is to reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 years.

AFRI is NIFA’s flagship competitive grant program and was established under the 2008 Farm Bill. 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) renewable energy, natural resources and environment; 5) agriculture systems and technology; and 6) agriculture economics and rural communities.

Improving child nutrition is also a focal point of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that passed Congress and was signed by President Obama on December 13, 2010.  This legislation authorizes USDA’s child nutrition programs, including the Summer Food Service Program, and the National School Lunch Program, which serves nearly 32 million children each day.  It will allow USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, the chance to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs by improving the critical nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is the legislative centerpiece of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative. To learn more, visit www.LetsMove.gov.

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.  More information is available at: www.nifa.usda.gov.

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.  To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).