Program Overview

Obesity is a global public health concern that will persist for the lifetime of the current undergraduate students. For this reason there is a need to train students in the field of nutrition, obesity, and food insecurity. The Houston-area Opportunities in Undergraduate Student Training in Obesity & Nutrition (HOUSTON) Academy is a USDA-funded undergraduate training program housed at the University of Houston.

The HOUSTON Academy is a collaborative endeavor between existing partnerships, including a USDA laboratory (i.e. Children’s Nutrition Research Center), domestic academic institutions that serve minority and economically disadvantaged students (i.e. Houston Community College, Texas Southern University , University of Houston-Downtown), as well as an international academic institution (University of Costa Rica), and Houston-area community organizations (e.g., Houston Food Bank, Houston Independent School District, Urban Harvest).

Rice University Kinesiology major Laura Gonzalez describes her research at the HOUSTON Academy
(Video produced by Henry Baring/Rice University)


The objectives of the HOUSTON Academy are to (1) recruit, obtain and retain, and financially support through scholar 48-60 undergraduate students, primarily underrepresented race/ethnic students and economically disadvantaged students, over a period of 4 years in the Houston-area as a mechanism to assist with bachelor degree completion; (2) promote applied research and nutrition learning experiences that focus on food insecurity, obesity and/or nutrition through the existing domestic and international partnerships mentioned above as a way to facilitate exposure to careers related to food and agricultural sciences; (3) provide Academy Fellows direct mentorship and professional developmental opportunities that are student-centered in order to cultivate and refine skills; (4) support Academy Fellow’s development of leadership skills through participation in recruiting future Academy Fellows, delivery of nutrition education workshops, and contributing to peer mentoring.