New USDA-funded nutrition center with BCTR ties
October 31, 2014
A new federally-funded Cornell center will study how simple changes to schools, communities, and workplaces could help people live healthier and boost the success of long-running nutrition education programs for low-income families. The center will be led by Jamie Dollahite, professor of nutritional sciences.
The Northeast Regional Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Center of Excellence, based in Cornell’s Division of Nutritional Sciences and funded by a two-year, $856,250 award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Food and Nutrition Service, unites multidisciplinary researchers, extension leaders and community partners to address socio-ecological factors contributing to obesity. One of five sites established by a $4 million USDA grant, Cornell’s center is a hub for 12 states, from Maine to Virginia, coordinating research and testing interventions primarily through the national Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-Ed) and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).
In addition to carrying out this signature research program, the center will issue sub-awards for projects in the Northeast to test community-based interventions and build a network for disseminating findings to the public and throughout the extension system.
Dollahite noted that the center will also focus on building evidence for the effectiveness of programs serving low-income populations. In 2013 nutrition education programs delivered through Cornell Cooperative Extension reached more than 175,000 under-served families across New York.
Cornell won the USDA funding in a competitive grant process carried out last summer. Dollahite believes the university succeeded thanks to “strong existing research and extension programs” and a “diverse team of researchers representing nutrition, health economics, behavioral economics, health communications, and community-based nutrition education.”
“Our steering and advisory committees include nationally recognized experts from Cornell, Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Tufts and other top institutions, including all of the land-grant institutions in our region,” she added.
In support of these goals, Jennifer Tiffany (BCTR director of outreach and community engagement) will serve on the research advisory committee, guiding the project's steering committee and helping identify gaps in the evidence base and proposing methods for pursuing projects designed to fill these gap. This work will draw on Tiffany's extensive experience in community-based health education and research and be supported by her connections throughout the university. In addition to her position in the BCTR, she serves as associate director of Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), associate director for outreach and extension within the College of Human Ecology, and executive director of CCE’s NYC Programs.
The BCTR's director of research and evaluation Debbie Sellers will serve as the evaluation specialist for the project and will be a member of the steering committee.
The new center promises to increase collaboration between researchers and practitioners across the region. It will contribute to national obesity prevention efforts, and provide new opportunities to remedy gaps in the evidence-base.
USDA designates Cornell as obesity prevention hub - Cornell Chronicle