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Image: Food Choices & Health

Behavioral Economics

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ERS plays a leading role in applying behavioral economic theories and concepts to improving food choices. To generate knowledge and develop research capacity in this important study area, ERS, in collaboration with USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), made a series of initial awards in fiscal 2010 to form a foundation for USDA's initiative to develop a research program in behavioral economics as applied to USDA's child nutrition programs. The first of these awards established a Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs. ERS also made awards for three projects to test school-based applications of behavioral economic concepts intended to improve children's food choices. A final series of awards provided seed money for developmental awards in this emerging research area.

Objectives of USDA's Behavioral Economics-Child Nutrition Research Initiative are to:

  • Provide innovative research on behavioral economics and healthy food choices that addresses questions of public policy interest and importance.
  • Broaden the network of social scientists who participate in research that applies principles and theories of behavioral economics to the study of healthy food choice behaviors that will lead to improving nutrition, food security, and health outcomes.
  • Disseminate information obtained via its research program to a diverse stakeholder audience, including other researchers, policy and program officials, and the general public.

USDA Center for Behavioral Economics and Healthy Food Choice Research

ERS, in partnership with USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), is inviting proposals to establish the USDA Behavioral Economics Center for Healthy Food Choice. Jointly funded by FNS, under its research and evaluation program, and by ERS, under its Behavioral and Administrative data initiative, the Center will conduct behavioral economics research that will complement the work of the ERS and FNS-funded Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs.

Applying behavioral economic insights to food choice behavioral factors (including consumer, food industry, and retailer behaviors) of relevance to USDA policies intended to improve the nutrition, food security, and health of Americans will be within the scope of the Center. However, the Center will devote a substantial portion of its efforts to factors related to the effectiveness and efficiency of two programs—the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC Program).

The Center will be funded for a 3-year period, at an amount of up to $1.9 million. The deadline for submission of applications is June 30, 2014. For more information, see Competitive Grant To Establish a USDA Center for Behavioral Economics and Healthy Food Choice Research: Request for Applications.

Visit to apply for the grant.

For more information about behavioral economic research conducted by ERS or funded through ERS, see the Food and Nutrition Assistance Research Database.

Last updated: Monday, May 05, 2014

For more information contact: Joanne Guthrie, Alex Majchrowicz, and Lisa Mancino

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