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Request for Information (RFI): Research Opportunities to End Hunger, Food and Nutrition Insecurity
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.
Responses will be accepted through November 1, 2021.