How Can We Help Kids and Families Eat Healthier?

Jun 6, 2018, 10:00 AM, Posted by

A $2.6 million funding opportunity for researchers studying how to improve children’s development through healthy foods and beverages.

A mother and daughter sit together while enjoying watermelon.

When our kids were around 5 months old, we knew it was time to begin nourishing them with more than breastmilk or formula. But the thought of where or how to begin was overwhelming to us first-time moms. We also understand that establishing healthy eating patterns in early childhood sets a foundation for sound dietary habits later in life. This is why we are sharing a funding opportunity for researchers who can help us better understand what and how our kids should be eating.

We have firsthand knowledge of how crucial the right nutrition information is. Despite seeking tips from pediatricians, friends and countless books and websites, we had no idea what to feed our babies. In addition, while options at the supermarket were endless, there wasn’t enough clear, objective information to help us make an informed decision about what to choose and why. (Ironically, the dog food aisle offered a wealth of thorough guidance on how to keep a dog’s coat shiny and her bones strong.)

We even faced uncertainty with the very act of feeding our babies! So many concerns popped up, like “Was the rice cereal supposed to be this watery? How can I tell if she likes it or if she’s still hungry or if she even ate any of it at all? Is this food a choking hazard?”


Nutrition research funding is now available for researchers/research teams studying ways—either through current or new pilot policies/programs—to improve children’s nutrition habits and help them grow up at a healthy weight.


The answers we were seeking did exist. But, parents don’t have the time to sift through long research or health articles. They need succinct, simple information that is easy to access and understand. Something like the new research-based videos from 1,000 Days, an organization that works to promote good nutrition for moms and babies from pregnancy until a child’s second birthday.

These videos are made for parents: they focus on one aspect of feeding at a time; tell you what signals to look for from your baby before you try a new food or feeding approach; and share specific instructions on the types of food to feed your baby, how to prepare them and exactly when and how to introduce them. Plus, they’re well under two minutes and can be quickly viewed on YouTube.

We’ve been proud to support the development of the 1,000 Days videos to help other parents facing the same struggles we did.

Videos by 1,000 Days–an organization that promotes nutrition for moms and babies–is based on HER research.

The 1,000 Days videos originated with a group of researchers and policy experts who came together to create the first ever, comprehensive set of technical, evidence-based feeding guidelines for babies 0-2.

This group received funding for their work through Healthy Eating Research (HER), one of our national programs. For more than ten years, HER has been working with researchers from around the country who are studying nutrition issues. The work they do informs federal and local food/nutrition programs and policies to improve the health and well-being of children and families.

Not only does HER support researchers to conduct their analysis and publish findings, it also helps communicate these findings to specific audiences who need them most. These are typically advocates, policymakers and the larger public health field.

For instance, HER has worked with researchers to develop complementary products such as issue briefs and infographics that synthesize lengthy journal articles to better emphasize the topic being studied and the subsequent findings. HER has also equipped researchers with the resources necessary to garner press coverage for an issue that is in the headlines or submit testimony to offer evidence on a topic connected to a hotly debated bill.  

In addition to assisting with the dissemination of research, RWJF and HER have succeeded in creating relationships with the country’s leading nutrition and obesity prevention organizations in addition to national health institutions such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Institutes of Health. One benefit of working with us is that our network and resources become available to you. And now is a great time to join our community.  

Details of This Funding Opportunity

The next round of nutrition research funding is available (application deadline: July 18, 2018). HER is awarding $2.6 million to researchers/research teams studying ways—either through current or new pilot policies/programs—to improve children’s nutrition habits and dietary intake to help them grow up healthy.

We are most interested in research that can impact kids and families, particularly those who are disproportionately affected by high rates of obesity and poor health, in the places they spend time including child care centers, schools and the neighborhoods where they live.

Some topics that are of importance are included in the list below. But, proposals do not need to be limited to these areas.

  • Federal nutrition programs such as SNAP, WIC, and School Breakfast and Lunch programs;
  • Strategies to increase access to healthy food and/or decrease access to unhealthy food including pricing incentives, water access, nutrition labels and procurement practices; and
  • Industry and/or retail practices that influence purchasing and consumption habits.

We know that many of you are studying innovative ways to help our kids eat healthier. This next round of funding could help you continue your work. It could also introduce that work to new and larger audiences who will use it in myriad ways from informing federal nutrition policy that has the potential to benefit millions of kids to equipping stressed out parents with the guidance they need to feed their babies. This is why we ask you to submit a written report once your project concludes, that includes findings that can be widely disseminated to advocates, policymakers and the research community.

View the archived 2018 Call for Applications to learn more.



Jamie Bussell

Jamie Bussel, MPH, a senior program officer who joined RWJF in 2002, is an inspiring, hands-on leader with extensive experience in developing programs and policies that promote the health of children and families. Her work focuses on ensuring that all children have the building blocks for lifelong health. Read her full bio.

Tina Kauh

Tina Kauh joined RWJF in 2012. In her role as a Research-Evaluation-Learning senior program officer, she evaluates the work of grantees, develops new research and evaluation programs, helps to develop and monitor performance indicators, and disseminates lessons learned. With her focus on research and evaluation with ethnic and minority populations, she values the “opportunity to understand and address critical health issues, such as childhood obesity.” Read her full bio.