RIDGE Program

USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) encourages new and innovative research through joint projects with both USDA, ERS staff and outside researchers. The USDA, ERS extramural research program promotes food and nutrition assistance research from a broad arena:

Research Innovation and Development Grants in Economics Program (RIDGE)

The 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 USDA, ERS and USDA, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and is administered in partnership with public or private institutions of higher education.

Request for Proposals (RFP) for RIDGE Grants

USDA, ERS and the RIDGE Partnership partners invite proposals for new research as part of the RIDGE Partnership. The RFP was released December 1, 2022. There will be an informational webinar for applicants on December 9, 2022, and January 9, 2023. Proposals will be due January 30, 2023. The RFP and other background material are provided on the RIDGE Partnership website.

2022 RIDGE Partnership Award

USDA, ERS—in collaboration with USDA, FNS—invited applications from university-based institutions for a competitive cooperative agreement award to establish a RIDGE Partnership for Food and Nutrition Assistance Research in 2022.

The new RIDGE partnership was awarded to Tufts University, the University of Connecticut (UConn), and the University of Missouri on September 16, 2022.

For more information, please contact Alana Rhone.

2019 Grant Awards

The previous RIDGE partnership funded eight research grants to enhance food security and dietary quality in Federal nutrition assistance programs in 2019. Using a wide variety of data sources—including surveys, administrative data, and qualitative methods—these research projects informed the public on programs that provided nutrition assistance to people of all ages across the United States. See: Eight New Research Grants to Enhance Food Security and Dietary Quality in Federal Nutrition Assistance Programs.

The previous RIDGE program issued a request for proposals in early 2019. Applicants submitted short concept letters in early spring on food and nutrition assistance issues in which applicants would like to conduct research. The selected applicants were invited to submit full proposals in late spring. All full proposals were reviewed by external reviewers, USDA reviewers, and by the program directors at the University of Connecticut and Tufts University. Using recommendations from the RIDGE partnership, the award decision was made by USDA, ERS and USDA, FNS.

The Tufts/UConn RIDGE partnership oversaw the application, peer review, award, and performance processes of the research grants provided through the RIDGE Program. Tufts/UConn served as a hub for mentoring and training researchers interested in food and nutrition assistance issues and provided a source of timely and accessible information on research findings. Tufts/UConn sought applicants from a diverse community of experienced nutrition assistance researchers, graduate students, early career scholars, and established researchers who brought expertise in another research area.


USDA, ERS and its partner institutions host the Food and Nutrition Assistance RIDGE Program Conference, at which RIDGE researchers present findings of completed projects. The last RIDGE Conference was held on October 14, 2020. For information about this most recent conference, see the 2020 Research Innovation and Development Grants in Economics Program (RIDGE) Conference.

The next RIDGE conference will be held in the Fall of 2024. Details about this 2024 conference will be announced here when they are available.

Research Project Summaries

RIDGE, known as the Small Grants Program until 2006, has funded more than 285 projects at more than 100 educational and research institutions from 1998 to 2019. For detailed findings from research projects conducted during the past several years, see the previous RIDGE partners at Tufts University/University of Connecticut (UConn); 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. 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