The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded $5.5 million to fund research that will help alleviate childhood hunger in the United States. Craig Gundersen, a UI professor of nutritional sciences in the department of agricultural and consumer economics, and James Ziliak, of the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research, will coordinate a research program on childhood hunger.
"Limited economic resources in the American household have resulted in less food on the table," Gundersen said. "This food insecurity has a negative impact on children's intellectual, physical, and emotional development. This program will lay the foundation for what will be the next great wave of research into food insecurity and food assistance policy, expanding the nation's corps of food security researchers."
The program will solicit external research projects through the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research. Gundersen and Ziliak will synthesize, summarize and draw out the policy implications of the work.
"This summary will address the determinants of childhood hunger among low-income families, the identification of food insecurity for directed interventions, policy innovations to improve the effectiveness of food assistance programs in reducing episodic and persistent hunger, implications for how complementary safety-net programs can be improved to eliminate hunger, and a detailed analysis of what we know and what we need to know in order to eliminate childhood hunger in the United States," Gundersen said.
According to the USDA, in 2008 about one in five children lived in families without the financial means to access enough food to sustain active, healthy living. In 2009, the USDA devoted more than $60 billion to address the problem.
"The problem of food insecurity has become particularly acute in recent years, including an unprecedented increase of over 30 percent from 2007 to 2008," Gundersen said. "One key reason that rate remains stubbornly high is limitations in our understanding of the causes and the effectiveness of programs currently in place to alleviate food insecurity. This program will use integrated, cutting-edge research to explore the causes, consequences and policy solutions to childhood hunger in the United States."