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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

South Carolina Researchers Receive Additional $771K for Competitive Grants Program on Food Choice

After successfully completing the first cohort of projects in their Drivers of Food Choice competitive grants program, health promotion, education, and behavior researchers Dr. Christine Blake and Dr. Edward Frongillo (University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health) have been awarded an additional $771,000 in further support of the program. Originally funded with a five-year, $5.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom government, this supplemental award from the Gates Foundation brings the total funding for the program up to nearly $6.3 million.

The Drivers of Food Choice program supports research aimed at understanding food choice in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Through better understanding of the factors that influence food choice among the poor in these areas, this research will help guide current and future programs and activities aimed at improving food and nutrition security in low- and middle-income countries. The program also fosters a community of practice in food choice research in these nations.

With the first cohort of research projects completed earlier this year, the participants met in Ghana this past summer to share their findings, successes and lessons learned. The exchange, which took place at the 2018 Agriculture, Nutrition, & Health (ANH) Academy Week, included representatives from seven low-income countries (i.e., Ghana, India, Indonesia, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam) who completed eight projects during the 2016-2018 funding period.

The second cohort (funding period 2018-2020), which includes seven projects, began this past spring. Together, the 15 projects focus on a range of topics, including agricultural subsidies, changes in the retail food environment, maternal and child obesity, land permanence, changes in livelihood, and role of gender.

The new supplemental funds will be used to enhance the synthesis and dissemination of findings from these 15 projects. Specifically, this grant will enable the development of communication materials, such as the design and development of policy and practice briefs to distribute to policy and program stakeholders. It will also facilitate the exchange of findings and ideas through the organization of workshops and symposia meetings and the presentation of oral and poster presentations at international conferences.

“Ultimately the reach of the findings that emerge from these 15 projects will be enhanced through the coordinated promotion and dissemination of findings,” says Dr. Blake, who notes that each research team has incorporated dissemination efforts (e.g., peer-reviewed presentations, social media, documentary films, blogs, photovoice exhibits) into their individual projects. “With these supplemental funds, we can expand our efforts to facilitate uptake of research findings from individual projects and synthesize work at the country, regional and global level.”

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[Photo: Dr. Christine Blake]