September 10, 2021
OD/Office of Nutrition Research (ONR)
All applications to this funding opportunity announcement should fall within the mission of the Institutes/Centers. The following NIH Offices may co-fund applications assigned to those Institutes/Centers.
Office of Research on Women's Health (ORWH)
This Request for Information (RFI) invites input on the approaches NIH can take to address hunger, food insecurity and nutrition insecurity through innovative and multidisciplinary research. Food security has been defined as having the availability of sufficient food, compared to nutrition security, ensuring that food quality meets human nutrient needs. Several areas of investigation could potentially reveal strategies to advance nutrition science, improve coordination of federal food and nutrition policy, along with strategies and tactics to integrate nutrition with healthcare. This RFI is intended to solicit input from a broad array of stakeholder communities beyond the biomedical research community and healthcare sector. These stakeholders include public health and social service officials at the federal, state, county and community levels, community organizations, food banks, the agricultural sector, retailers and supermarkets, restaurants, food manufacturers, worksites, educational settings, the insurance industry, media, advocacy groups, people with lived experience of hunger and the general public.
Imagine a world without hunger, in which all individuals, families, and communities have ready access to enough affordable, nutritious food to sustain a happy and healthy life. The goal is urgent: Levels of hunger, worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, are increasing – fueled by a weak supply chain that restricts access of nutritious food to underserved populations. The result is a rising incidence of nutrition insecurity, which like hunger, stems from many factors beyond food and aligns with lack of access to life-enhancing resources. [2,3] These underlying factors include social determinants of health such as systematic racism, housing accessibility and affordability, food system and supply, financial instability, social relationships, transportation access, nutrition literacy, cooking skills and nutrition education, and access and quality of healthcare. The untoward effects of nutrition insecurity are tragic. Children who experience nutrition insecurity are far less likely to perform well in school and to attain higher education. And nutrition insecurity can impede the ability of adults to achieve and maintain employment, particularly in well-paying jobs. All this negatively affects nationwide economic opportunity and mobility and further entrenches health inequity.
Although the consequences of food and nutrition insecurity are harmful to health, they are likely to be preventable given the ability of rigorous research to turn knowledge into workable strategies and to convene the right voices to make change happen. Harnessing the power of research holds the promise to prevent disparities in a variety of diet-related chronic diseases and health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and various mental illnesses. This is an urgent task toward achieving health equity, since health conditions linked to poor diet are associated with preventable causes of death in the United States, reduce quality of life related to multiple comorbidities, and are major drivers of healthcare costs, estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually. 
NIH is seeking broad input on a roadmap to end hunger, food insecurity, and nutrition insecurity through innovative and multidisciplinary research spanning the investigational spectrum from cells to selves to societies. The two health crises of undernutrition and overnutrition are interrelated in many ways – and solving them means understanding, and targeting, their shared properties and misalignments. One strategic approach is to combined research-based efforts across federal agencies with the participation of states and communities to achieve nutrition security and health equity. Setting a nutrition insecurity research agenda (from basic science, intervention development and testing, to knowledge dissemination and implementation) will benefit first from a broad landscape analysis of the state of the science; and second, from articulation of research gaps and opportunities related to food insecurity and the neighborhood food environment affected in part by federal agency food and nutrition-related programs and policies. Subsequent innovative research strategies will inform policy and practice to address and prevent diet-related health disparities.
In response to the growing nature of and federal interest in these problems, and NIH’s workshop on Food Insecurity, Neighborhood Food Environment, and Nutrition Health Disparities: State of the Science , we seek input on the following specific topics from a broader array of stakeholders. These include but are not limited to federal, state, and local officials, anti-hunger, food supply, and health care experts, public health providers, community organizations, food banks, the agricultural sector, retailers and supermarkets, restaurants, food manufacturers and donators, worksites, educators and administrators, food services, the health insurance industry, media, advocacy groups, and the general public. We seek information on the following:
1) Why hunger persists, including how limited opportunities for economic mobility and other inequities have contributed to hunger, along with research needed to address this,
2) Examples of effective coordination between federal, state, counties and/or non-governmental organizations that have addressed hunger, food insecurity and nutrition insecurity through research, policies, implementation strategies or regulations.
3) Experiences with strategies or innovative interventions that are working, could be improved or not working to address food insecurity and neighborhood food environments and to promoting health equity related to diet related chronic diseases, including research strategies that could be applied to examine the potential translatability of these strategies/interventions to other settings or diverse populations.
4) Implementation science research needed to examine the efficacy of providing specific resources or approaches to eliminate hunger and food insecurity and improve nutrition security and health for all.
Responses will be accepted through November 1, 2021.
Responses must be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, either within the body of the email or as an attachment (PDF or MS Word). No forms are required, or page limits have been instituted. Respondent comments do not have to address all of the above items, but in that case, it would be appreciated if the specific request was reiterated above the response.
This RFI is for planning purposes only and should not be construed as a solicitation for applications or as an obligation on the part of the Government to provide support for any ideas identified in response to it. Please note that the United States Government will not pay for the preparation of any information submitted or for its use of that information. The NIH will use the information submitted in response to this RFI at its discretion and will not provide comments to any responder's submission. Responses will be compiled and shared internally with Office of Nutrition Research Senior Leadership and Implementation Work Groups and potentially we may anonymize responses to protect the identity of the respondent before sharing with other federal agencies we collaborate with as part of the Interagency Committee on Human Nutrition Research or other agencies tasked with reducing Hunger, Food and Nutrition Insecurity. We look forward to your input and hope that you will share this document with your colleagues.
Christopher Lynch, Ph.D
OD/Office of Nutrition Research (ONR)