The Regional Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Centers of Excellence (RNECE) initiative was created to strengthen the science and enhance dissemination of nutrition education and obesity prevention strategies and interventions that produce measurable improvements in health, obesity, nutrition (food behavior), and physical activity-related outcomes of interest to USDA.
Through this initiative NIFA, FNS, and partners worked broadly with stakeholders to develop effective education/extension, environmental, systems, and policy translational activities that promote health and prevent/reduce obesity in disadvantaged low-income families and children.
Nutrition education and promotion for low-income or disadvantaged groups have been a priority within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the past half-century. USDA administers nutrition education programs that target low-income populations through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), initiated in 1969, is the principal educational effort administered through NIFA. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-Ed), created in 1992, is the primary educational program administered through FNS.
In fiscal years 2014 and 2015, the USDA conducted the Regional Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Centers of Excellence (RNECE) Initiative to support collaboration between researchers and nutrition program leaders and educators, and strengthen the science and expand dissemination of strategies and resources used by SNAP-Ed and EFNEP to improve food and physical activity behaviors of low-income populations. Stakeholders’ active and ongoing involvement was required to ensure that the initiative addressed regionally-identified and national priorities. The RNECE initiative was jointly funded by FNS and NIFA. Seven awards were made for a total of $8 million. Four regional centers – one in each of NIFA’s administrative regions, a policy, systems and environmental change (PSE) center, a longitudinal study project, and a national coordination center were funded. This initiative ended in 2019. Awardees were:
- National Coordination Center: University of Kentucky
- North Central Region: Purdue University
- Northeastern Region: Cornell University
- Southern Region: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Western Region: Colorado State University
- Policy, Systems, and Environmental Change: University of Tennessee
- Longitudinal Study: Utah State University