The Department of Agriculture is spending $5 million for colleges to develop pilot "obesity prevention" programs, the agency said last week.
The majority of the funding will go to the University of Tennessee for its "Get Fruved" study. "The term ‘fruved’ alludes to fruits and vegetables," the school explained on its website.
The project is a "peer-led, train-the-trainer social marketing intervention to increase fruit and vegetable intake and prevent childhood obesity," the USDA said in a press release on March 12.
Led by Sarah Colby, an assistant professor of nutrition, 1,000 University of Tennessee students will create "interventions," which may include "gardening on campus," and "creating nights of dancing so students become more physically active."
"It’s reaching the students where they are and where they want to be," Colby said.
"Get Fruved" will begin in August, and eventually the college students will take their interventions to high schools.
"The hope is to have future funding that will allow the high school students to help middle school students do the same, and then middle school students to work with elementary students to design obesity prevention programs for elementary schools," the university said.
The project will cost $4,887,083.
"It’s only limited by the imagination and creativity of the students so expect to see amazing things," Colby said. "Students are so passionate about having an impact on the world. Their passion, commitment, and creativity are why this project is going to make a real difference."
Tufts University will also receive $149,988 to develop the "CHOMPS Pilot Project," a "kids-only" retail coupon study to "promote healthy snack options among adolescents in convenience stores."
Finally, Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina will receive $150,000 for an obesity initiative to "help 10-12 year-old children from low income families."
The USDA said it based the awards on "scientific merit."
"These grants fund critical research that will help USDA and our partners implement effective strategies to support America's next generation so they can have a healthy childhood and develop healthy habits for life," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Additionally, the USDA allotted $5.5 million to help schools implement First Lady Michelle Obama’s lunch nutrition standards. The USDA said the grants are part of its "smarter lunchroom movement." The funding will create "an environment that encourages kids to make healthy choices."
Vilsack said the funding will "help make sure that the healthy food on kids' plates ends up in their stomachs."
The Government Accountability Office reported that schools are seeing an increase in food waste since the implementation of the standards from the "Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act," and one million children have fled the lunch line as a result of the healthier fare.