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Healthy Food

Food and Nutrition Security

Advancing food and nutrition security is a core priority of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department is taking a whole-of-Department approach to accelerating progress on the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health and corresponding National Strategy goals to end hunger, improve nutrition and physical activity, and reduce diet-related diseases and disparities. Through research, education, and extension, NIFA contributes towards these efforts in the following ways:

By the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Security Four Pillar Approach which is informed by NIFA’s research investments, among other USDA’s research activities:

By the National Strategy Five Pillar Approach:

  • Improve Food Access and Affordability 
  • Integrate Nutrition and Health 
  • Empower All Consumers to Make and Have Access to Healthy Food 
  • Support Physical Activity for All 
  • Enhance Nutrition and Food Security Research 

What is Food and Nutrition Security?

Food security for a household means access by all members at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food security includes at a minimum:

  • The ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods
  • Assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (that is, without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or other coping strategies)

Building on and complementing our long-standing efforts to address food security, the USDA is expanding our efforts to advance food and nutrition securityNutrition security means all Americans have consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, affordable foods essential to optimal health and well-being. Our approach to tackling food and nutrition insecurity aims to:

  1. Recognize that structural inequities make it hard for many people to eat healthy and be physically active; and
  2. Emphasize taking an equity lens to our efforts.

Importance of Food & Nutrition Security

Food insecurity creates enormous strain on worker productivity, healthcare spending, and military readiness and disproportionately impacts racial/ethnic minority populations, lower income populations, and rural and remote populations. The USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) noted food insecurity rates peaked at 14.9% in 2011 and dropped slowly to 10.5% in 2019 – illustrating the length of time – about 8 years – that it took to return to pre-recession (2007) levels. During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the US Census Bureau reported how food insecurity and food insufficiency was a challenge and disproportionately impacted communities of color, lower-income communities, and rural/remote communities. Often, food insecurity and diet-related chronic diseases co-exist. Diet-related chronic diseases are the leading causes of death in this country and disproportionately affect communities of color, lower-income communities, and rural/remote communities. Ensuring food and nutrition security for everyone in this country will require a better understanding of the complex causes and corresponding solutions of food insecurity and diet-related illnesses and disparities. As detailed on our Nutrition and Food Systems Topic Page, NIFA’s approach to advancing food and nutrition security supports the convergence of science and technology needed to transform our food system to shorten supply chains, optimize agricultural productivity, minimize negative environmental impacts, and ensure a resilient, flexible food system that is safe, affordable, and nutritious. 

NIFA’s Impact

NIFA recognizes nutrition as a cost-effective approach to address many of the societal, environmental, and economic issues faced across the globe today. NIFA works to ensure a safe, nutritious, and secure food supply while also developing, delivering, and disseminating evidence-based nutrition education and promotion to prevent chronic diseases, improve health, and prioritize nutrition security. NIFA partners with the Land-Grant University System and government, private, and non-profit organizations to support science. Our agency also invests in developing nutrition scientists across all stages of professional development to use an integrated approach to prioritizing nutrition security and ensuring sustainable agricultural systems through research, education, and extension. NIFA invests more than $220 million in research, education, extension, and innovation to advance USDA’s goal to tackle food and nutrition insecurity.

NIFA aims to help prioritize nutrition security by focusing on:

  • Using Innovative Trans-Disciplinary Solutions to Promote Healthy Eating Patterns and Behaviors to tackle the “whole picture” regarding underlying factors and most promising strategies.
  • Harnessing a Holistic Research Agenda, from Farm to Fork working along every link of the food chain to build a more sustainable, resilient, equitable and nourishing food system, including:
    • Production (e.g., agroecology, community and home food gardening, urban agriculture, farmers’ markets, regional food systems)
    • Preparation (e.g., ensuring sufficient, safe, and nutritious food preparation in culturally, contextually, and economically sensitive ways including disaster preparedness)
    • Promotion (e.g., Fostering a circular economy in rural areas by promoting local and regional food supply chains)
    • Consumption (e.g., enabling positive and sustained healthy eating behavior to decrease the health and financial burden of diet-related non-communicable diseases and health disparities)
    • Increase access to and improve the nutritional quality of our federal nutrition safety net
    • Disposal (e.g., limit food waste while ensuring food safety)
  • Integrating with Climate-Smart Agriculture on transformative discoveries, education, and engagement.
  • Engaging Individual, Family, and Community Agency and Capacity Building

The following NIFA Topic pages further explain our efforts to prioritize nutrition security (stay tuned a few pages are under development):

Key NIFA nutrition security programs include:

NIFA also supports additional programs that help prioritize nutrition security:

Integrating Youth Perspective

Our efforts aim to foster youth voice and integrate youth perspective where possible. Learn more from these relevant resources:

Indigenous Traditional Ecological Perspective

Across all of our efforts, we are prioritizing the integration of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility principles. We have also elevating the importance of integrating Indigenous Traditional Ecological Perspective. We are also working to help build the evidence base and translate the evidence into action for promoting Indigenous Food Sovereignty. Learn more from these relevant resources:


Learn more listening to our NIFA Nutrition Security Webinar Series.

Consumer Resources – Government Benefits explains how to apply for and find social support programs, including nutrition assistance. is a USDA sponsored website that offers credible information to help you make healthful eating choices.

Nutrition Professional Resources – The USDA National Agricultural Library’s Food and Nutrition Information Center provides access to a range of  resources from both government and non-government sources.

Nutrition Security Research Resources – The USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) conducts economic research on numerous topics central to food and nutrition security and provides links to selected ERS research and resources on these topics.

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