Walmart Foundation Grant to AUCD Expands Nutrition Efforts for People with Disabilities in Four States

June 16, 2016

The Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) is pleased to announce that the Walmart Foundation has granted AUCD and four of its member Centers $300,000 to launch the "Nutrition is for Everyone" project. This one-year pilot project will provide nutrition education for an estimated 20,000 people in the disability community across Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

Based on public health data, four states were identified as areas where people with disabilities are least likely to be consuming fruits and vegetables and therefore in the most need for nutrition education and support. The "Nutrition is for Everyone" program design employs " Nutrition Ambassadors," trained experts from the AUCD network and local community who will help people with disabilities, as well as their families and friends, develop the knowledge and skills necessary to make healthy decisions about their nutrition needs.

"We are thrilled that AUCD was selected for this collaborative funding that benefits the field," said Andrew Imparato, executive director of AUCD. "We are excited about the Walmart Foundation's commitment to funding programs that provide nutrition education to underserved communities. This grant will support AUCD's direct training of people with disabilities and community members on nutrition, and we expect it to have a positive impact on the health of people with disabilities living in the target states."

The network Centers collaborating on this effort will receive over $190,000 in combined funding to facilitate the program, in which they will competitively select a state "Nutrition Ambassador." Ambassadors will develop a tailored work plan based on their state's specific needs. Ambassadors will provide training for community members with disabilities and their friends and families, to increase the number of people with disabilities receiving nutrition education and subsequently increase the rates of consumption of fruits and vegetables for people with disabilities.

Nutrition and disability experts from the Institute on Disability and Human Development, AUCD's member Center at the University of Illinois in Chicago, will serve as consultant advisors, sharing lessons learned from "Health Matters," a program that builds capacity for organizations across the country to implement health promotion programs for people with developmental disabilities.

The four AUCD members working on this pilot program are in regions with greatest need. These include:

1. Partners for Inclusive Communities at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock, AR

Since 1994, Partners for Inclusive Communities (Partners) has trained students to support people with disabilities and their families. Partners has graduated 74 nutrition students with 20 of those receiving more than 300 hours of training. Graduates have gone on to become credentialed as Registered Dietitians and Nutritionists. 

"Obesity is a huge problem for our country and Arkansas has the highest rates in the nation.  Individuals with disabilities have even higher rates of obesity than the general public. This project will allow us to improve the health of persons with disability in our state. We're excited about the opportunities this provides us. We appreciate Walmart's commitment to the health of people with disabilities," says Dr. David Deere, Director of Partners for Inclusive Communities, Arkansas's University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD).

2. Human Development Center at Louisiana State University, New Orleans, LA

Many projects at the Human Development Center focus on supporting the education and health of people with disabilities, as well as children and families from diverse and under-served populations. Current nutrition education and health literacy projects include the Early Head Start- Child Care Partnership, a federally funded collaboration with the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center to promote better nutrition and food safety in a cost-efficient, culturally sensitive manner.

"We look forward to extending our nutrition training efforts into different regions of the state through this Nutrition Ambassador model," says Dr. Philip Wilson, director of the Human Development Center, Louisiana's University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD).

3. Center for Learning and Leadership at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, OK

The Center for Learning and Leadership is located in the College of Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. The community relationships developed by this Center demonstrate a strong commitment to supporting self-advocates as they build capacity in their communities and enact systems change. The Center will draw on the research and guidance of academic associates at the College of Allied Health, as well as current research at the Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity Lab.

"We are excited to work on a project that aims to change the trajectory of health for people with disabilities and their families in our state for the better," says Dr. Valarie Williams, director of the Center for Learning and Leadership, Oklahoma's University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD).

4. Boling Center for Developmental Disabilities (BCDD), University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, TN

The Boling Center for Developmental Disabilities (BCDD) will leverage its Act Early Ambassador experience with systems change in developmental monitoring to benefit "Nutrition is for Everyone." BCDD is an interdisciplinary program that supports children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families through training, service, applied research, information dissemination, planning, and policy development. BCDD offers inclusive nutrition consultations across the lifespan for people with disabilities.

"The Boling Center is pleased to partner with the Walmart Foundation and members of our national network of university centers to provide statewide nutrition education for persons with disabilities, their families, and the community that supports them," says Dr. Bruce Keisling, BCDD's associate director.



AUCD is a national, nonprofit network of centers in every state and territory working to advance policy and practice for people living with disabilities and their families. Learn more about AUCD and its Public Health is for Everyone program, which offers resources for public health professionals to create programs that benefit entire communities, including people with disabilities, by visiting or on Twitter at @AUCDnews.