An initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Building the Evidence: Creating New Types of Data


November 15th, 2022


The body mass index (BMI) measurement is simply that—a measure of body size—but it is not a comprehensive measurement of health. A better assessment of true community health must consider the impact of important issues like nutritional adequacy, upstream factors affecting food supply, nutritional assistance, and indicators of food quality and availability on every child’s health and well-being. 

RWJF is pursuing two new research efforts that take this broader lens. The first is a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Economic Research Service1 (ERS) to fund researchers from diverse academic disciplines and institutions to produce new science on food policy, food retail markets, consumer behaviors related to food purchases and diet, and USDA nutrition assistance programs—all of which factor in to a child’s health.

These grants will make ERS’ valuable data on food and nutrition available to scientists, supporting research on relevant and timely evidence that informs the USDA, Congress, and the public about the food sector and about key national issues regarding food and health—such as food insecurity, obesity, diet quality, and nutrition assistance programs.

The second effort is the current round of funding beginning through Healthy Eating Research,2 a national program of RWJF. HER aims to understand how social and economic programs and policies related to poverty reduction during the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted child obesity, diet quality, food and nutrition security, and other relevant child and family health outcomes among families with low incomes  and populations of color. The goal is to examine the impacts of a broader range of policy activity, including financial payments to families, income assistance programs, housing assistance or housing security programs, and increased access to social services.

By working to overcome structural barriers to equitable access to healthy food, RWJF aims to build healthier community conditions for all children and families.