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USDA Awards University of Michigan Grant to Help Reduce Childhood Obesity in Preschool Children

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

ANN ARBOR, Mich., March 14, 2011 – Roger Beachy, director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), announced today that NIFA is awarding Dr. Julie Lumeng of the University of Michigan a grant to explore steps to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity among Head Start preschoolers in Michigan. Beachy also highlighted USDA's work in recognition of National Nutrition Month (March) and emphasized the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.   

“We know that if our kids are going to grow up and win the future, they have to be healthy and receive the right nutrition,” Beachy said. “NIFA supports research and the development of methods, built on sound science, to reverse the trend of rising obesity and assist children and their families adopt healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.”

With the $4.9 million NIFA grant, Lumeng and her team will develop a program to study the complex relationship between stress, children’s eating habits and obesity.  The team will use two previously standardized programs to examine the potential benefits that different stress management strategies can offer children’s eating behavior. Michigan State University Extension and Head Start educators who collaborate on the project will receive non-formal training and educational curricula to assist in determining the effectiveness of the program. If successful, the results will be widely disseminated to teachers around the country.

The grants are awarded through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). AFRI’s research grants for studies of childhood obesity prevention support single-function research, education and extension projects; multi-function integrated research, education and extension projects; and Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement (FASE) grants. The long-term goal of this program is to reduce the prevalence of 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.

During National Nutrition Month in March, USDA encourages people to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat milk in their meals each day.  These recommendations are included in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans that were recently released by USDA and HHS, which focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.  Through its nutrition assistance programs, USDA also promotes access, resources and pathways for low-income Americans to lead a more healthful lifestyle.

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).