RIDGE Program

USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) encourages new and innovative research through joint projects with both USDA, ERS staff and outside researchers. The USDA, ERS extramural research program promotes food and nutrition assistance research from a broad arena:

Research Innovation and Development Grants in Economics Program (RIDGE)

The RIDGE Program encourages new and innovative research on food and nutrition assistance issues and broadens the participation of social science scholars in such research. RIDGE is funded by USDA, ERS and USDA, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and is administered in partnership with public or private institutions of higher education.

RIDGE Partnership Award

USDA, ERS—in collaboration with USDA, FNS—invited applications from university-based institutions for a competitive cooperative agreement award to establish a RIDGE Partnership for Food and Nutrition Assistance Research in 2022. The RIDGE partnership was awarded to Tufts University, the University of Connecticut (UConn), and the University of Missouri on September 16, 2022.

The Tufts/UConn/University of Missouri RIDGE partnership:

  • oversees the application, peer review, award, and performance processes of the research grants provided through the RIDGE Program;
  • seeks applicants from a diverse community of experienced nutrition assistance researchers, graduate students, early career scholars, and established researchers who bring expertise in another research area; and
  • serves as a hub for mentoring and training researchers interested in food and nutrition assistance issues and provides timely and accessible information on research findings from funded research projects.

This RIDGE Partnership administered the first round of research grants in 2023. Funding for a second round of research grants was provided to the RIDGE Partnership in 2023 and awarded in 2024.

For more information, please contact Alana Rhone.

2024 Grant Awards

The USDA, ERS and RIDGE Partnership invited proposals for new research, as part of the RIDGE Partnership 2024 grant cycle.

The request for proposals for the 2024 round of grantees was issued in December 2023. Applicants submitted short concept letters on the proposed research. The selected applicants were invited to submit full proposals. All full proposals were reviewed by external reviewers, USDA reviewers, and by the program directors at the University of Connecticut, Tufts University, and the University of Missouri. Using recommendations from the RIDGE partnership, the award decision was made by USDA, ERS and USDA, FNS and announced in May 2024.

Detailed information on the request for proposals can be found on the RIDGE Partnership website.

The 2024 round funded six research grants to enhance food security and dietary quality in Federal nutrition assistance programs. Using a wide variety of data sources (including surveys, administrative data, and qualitative methods) these research projects will inform the public on programs that provide nutrition assistance to people of all ages across the United States. More information is available on the RIDGE Partnership website.


USDA, ERS and its partner institutions host the Food and Nutrition Assistance RIDGE Program Conference, at which RIDGE researchers present findings of completed projects. The last RIDGE Conference was held on October 14, 2020. For information about this conference, see the 2020 Research Innovation and Development Grants in Economics Program (RIDGE) Conference.

The next RIDGE conference will be held October 7, 2024, when research projects awarded in 2023 will present their findings. Details about this conference will be announced here when they are available.

Research Project Summaries

RIDGE, known as the Small Grants Program until 2006, has funded more than 290 projects at more than 100 educational and research institutions from 1998 to 2024.

Previous RIDGE partners include: Tufts University/University of Connecticut (UConn); the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP), University of Wisconsin-Madison; the Center for Regional Development, Purdue University; the Southern Rural Development Center, Mississippi State University; the American Indian Studies Program, University of Arizona; the Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago; the Joint Center for Poverty Research, University of Chicago and Northwestern University; and the Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis.

The RIDGE Program periodically summarizes research findings of projects that were awarded grants through its partner institutions. The summaries are available in a searchable electronic database. To perform a customized search of all RIDGE project summaries (by keyword(s), project, research center, investigator, title, or year), see:

RIDGE Projects and Summaries