ERS encourages new and innovative research through joint projects with both ERS staff and outside researchers. The ERS extramural research program uses two main mechanisms to promote 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 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 RIDGE Program funded eight new research grants to enhance food security and dietary quality in Federal nutrition assistance programs. Using a wide variety of data sources—including surveys, administrative data, and qualitative methods—these research projects can inform the public on programs that provide 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 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 Program, the award decision was made by USDA’s Economic Research Service and Food and Nutrition Service.
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 seeks applicants from a diverse community of experienced nutrition assistance researchers, graduate students, early career scholars, and established researchers who bring expertise in another research area.
ERS and its partner institutions host the Food and Nutrition Assistance RIDGE Program Conference in the fall every 2 years, 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 2020 Research Innovation and Development Grants in Economics Program (RIDGE) Conference.
RIDGE, known as the Small Grants Program through 2006, 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 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: