WASHINGTON — Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on Sept. 30 announced eight new grant and cooperative agreement awards totaling $1.5 million to improve and enhance the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food and nutrition assistance programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and the school meals program.

“Participation in U.S.D.A.’s food assistance programs is at an all-time high, and we need sound research to make sure that these programs operate effectively and efficiently,” Mr. Vilsack said. “The awards we are announcing today include innovative projects that focus on ‘weekend hunger’ among school children, and on the issue of families’ access and proximity to retail food outlets.”

The grants include:
* Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. — $125,000 to study the prevalence of “weekend hunger” among school age children when school meal programs are unavailable;
* Simmons College, Boston — $200,000 to study how length of time participating in WIC affects changes in household food security status for different race/ethnic groups;
* Georgia State University, Atlanta — $225,000 to examine the role of school meals and SNAP in altering the dynamics of child weight gain and obesity from birth through eighth grade; and
* Yale University, New Haven, Conn. — $265,000 to assess the impact of the newly implemented WIC food package revisions on participants' purchases of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lower fat milk.