ERS encourages new and innovative research through joint projects between ERS staff and outside researchers. The ERS extramural research program component uses two main mechanisms to promote food and nutrition assistance research from a broad arena:

USDA Centers for Behavioral Economics and Healthy Food Choice Research

ERS plays a leading role in applying behavioral economic theories and concepts to improving food choices. In partnership with USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), ERS has invested in developing a major behavioral economics/healthy food-choice research program. This includes the establishment of two university-based research centers dedicated to generating knowledge and developing research capacity in this important research area:

  • Duke-UNC-USDA Center for Behavioral Economics and Healthy Food Choice Research—a partnership between Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, established by ERS in September 2014.
  • Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs, commonly referred to as the BEN Center, established by ERS in 2010.

For more information, see Behavioral Economics

Research Innovation and Development Grants in Economics Program (RIDGE)

The Research Innovation and Development Grants in Economics (RIDGE) Program encourages new and innovative research on food and nutrition assistance issues and broadens the participation of social science scholars in such research. RIDGE is funded by ERS and USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and is administered in partnership with Tufts University and the University of Connecticut (UConn). This partnership, established in 2016, brings together Tufts' Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and UConn's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, two institutions with a long record of leadership in food and nutrition research. 

The Tufts/UConn RIDGE partnership oversees the application, peer review, award, and performance processes of the research grants provided through the RIDGE Program. Tufts/UConn serves as a hub for mentoring and training researchers interested in food and nutrition assistance issues and provides a source of timely and accessible information on new research findings. Tufts/UConn is currently seeking applications from a diverse community of experienced nutrition assistance researchers, graduate students, early career scholars, and established researchers who bring expertise in another research area (see Funding/RIDGE at Tufts/UConn).

Annual Conference

ERS and its partner institutions host the Food and Nutrition Assistance RIDGE Program Conference in the Fall of each year at which RIDGE researchers present findings of completed projects. The next RIDGE Conference is scheduled for Thursday, October 11, 2018, at the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU), 1307 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC. Results will be presented for upcoming projects funded during 2017-18.  

Research Project Summaries

RIDGE, known as the Small Grants Program through 2006, has funded more than 285 projects at over 100 educational and research institutions during 1998-2016. For detailed findings from research projects conducted during the past several years, see the previous RIDGE partners at the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP), University of Wisconsin-Madison; the Center for Regional Development, Purdue University; and the Southern Rural Development Center, Mississippi State University.

In addition, many research projects were conducted through previous RIDGE partners at the American Indian Studies Program, University of Arizona; the Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago; the Joint Center for Poverty Research, University of Chicago and Northwestern University; and the Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis.   

The RIDGE Program annually summarizes research findings of projects that were awarded grants through its partner institutions in a given year. The summaries are available in a searchable electronic database. To perform a customized search of all RIDGE project summaries by keyword(s), project, research center, investigator, or year, see:

RIDGE Projects and Summaries

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