Family and Consumer Sciences

Strengthening Families, Farms, Communities, and the Economy

NIFA’S FAMILY & CONSUMER SCIENCES (FCS) SCIENCE EMPHASIS AREA addresses 21st century economic and health challenges. NIFA offers a range of research, education, and extension programs to help families and communities make healthy choices and better financial decisions, and reach their full potential.

According to the 2014 Census, 14.8 percent of all Americans lived in poverty. A recent Battelle study of the value of Family & Consumer Sciences Extension in the North Central Region showed that FCS results in substantial economic returns to the nation. Among the many benefits of FCS, the study reported that every $1 spent on NIFA’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) results in savings on food expenditures of $2.48 through smarter shopping behavior, meal planning, and enhanced use of low-cost recipes and more home-cooked meals.

Woman and child looking at vegetables



NIFA, the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) collaborate to support those who protect America—U.S. military veterans and their families. Research suggests that children of deployed parents experience more stress than their peers. NIFA, DOD, and VA collaborations have helped thousands of military families gain access to the high-quality educational programs in early childhood education, youth development, and related fields that land-grant university cooperative extension systems provide. In nearly every state, 4-H Military Partnerships offer programs for children from military families. Other key initiatives include the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness, led by Penn State University, which collects information on hundreds of programs from across the country and serves as a one-stop shop for professionals who work with vets and their families. The Virtual Lab School, led by The Ohio State University, is an online professional development and resource system that provides research-based courses in child care and youth development. NIFA also engages military veterans with the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), which funds organizations that train beginning farmers and ranchers through workshops, educational teams, training, and technical assistance. Nearly 10 percent of BFRDP funding went to projects that serve military veterans in 2016.


In mid-August 2016, residents of southern Louisiana were deluged by storms that brought about two feet of rain, resulting in flood damage to more than 100,000 homes. Several federal agencies, including NIFA and its partner, Healthy Homes Partnership (HHP), sprang into action to help. HHP links the resources of NIFA and state land-grant universities with U.S. Housing and Urban Development to form a public outreach education program to help residents prepare their homes in case of floods and other disasters. In southern Louisiana, HHP posted on Facebook and Twitter so people could access resources online. In one 24-hour period, the posts logged 509 clicks in which people went from the HHP Facebook page directly to the recovery guides. In all, flood recovery posts from Louisiana State University Extension’s LaHouse, HHP’s partner agency in Louisiana, reached about 30,000 residents.


Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDCs) play a unique role in USDA’s service to rural America. With NIFA funding, RRDCs help rural communities across the country find innovative ways to capitalize on their local strengths. The four RRDCs are located at Michigan State University, Mississippi State University, Penn State University, and Utah State University. Through a guided process, more than 400 counties in 38 states have discovered new ways to work together to grow their economies. Stronger Economies Together (SET) is a joint partnership between NIFA, USDA’S Rural Development, the RRDCs, and the Cooperative Extension System that brings together regions of three or more neighboring rural counties to identify their collective economic strengths, develop an action plan, and build on those assets to find a competitive edge for economic growth. To date, the 84 regions participating in SET have leveraged more than $588 million in funding to support their plans. Caddo, Custer, Washita, and Beckham counties, Oklahoma, contended with the economic devastation of a local military base closure. With the help of their RRDC, the community decided to take the empty airstrip and repackage it as a prime location for unmanned aerial vehicle research and development. By taking an underused resource and redirecting it to fit a niche need, the region opened the doors to a rapidly expanding new industrial market.


NIFA’s AgrAbility program enhances quality of life for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural workers with disabilities by providing funding  for direct assistance, non-formal education, and networking, and uses marketing to direct the public to initiatives, trainings, resources, and partnering opportunities. The University of Maine’s AgrAbility program provides health and safety information for the state’s high visibility professions, including commercial fishing and logging. Missouri AgrAbility, a partnership between the University of Missouri and Lincoln University Cooperative Extension, partnered with the University of Missouri-Kansas City School  of Pharmacy to minimize health risks and avoid re-injury related to prescription medications for disabled farmers. More than 65 pharmacy students and four pharmacists provided health screenings and education to nearly 2,000 farmers and ranchers. In FY 2016, NIFA awarded $4.2 million in grants through the AgrAbility Program to support 20 state and regional programs. Since initial funding in 1991, NIFA has awarded AgrAbility grants to more than 35 states resulting in on-farm assistance to keep more than 13,000 farmers working while educating thousands of professionals on how to accommodate those with disabilities in agriculture.