June 18/Urbana, Ill./Press Release -- The Family Resiliency Center and the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Dairy Research Institute will announce a new partnership that will help fill critical research gaps in how healthy eating habits are formed from the earliest ages. The “STRONG Kids 2: A cells-to-society approach to nutrition” project for which Dairy Research Institute is providing $1 million of support over five years, will provide unique insights into how individual biology interacts with the family environment to promote healthy eating habits, including milk and dairy consumption, in young children. It is one of the first longitudinal studies to take a look at the interaction between biological and environmental factors in predicting eating habits, starting at birth.

“This research project is timely and important, as we know that birth to three years of age is a critical time for establishing food preferences, immune tolerance and the gut microbiome,” said Sharon Donovan Ph.D. RD, professor of Food Science & Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois. “We are very excited to be working with the Dairy Research Institute to define how dairy products contribute to the growth and development of young children,” she added.

“For generations dairy farmers have been committed to children’s health we ness and earning,” said Greg Miller Ph.D., president Dairy Research Institute. “We’re proud to be part of this important research initiative that will provide critical new insights for health and wellness professionals to use in helping kids establish good nutrition habits they need for a lifetime such as drinking milk.”

The project is part of the larger STRONG Kids Program based at the Family Resiliency Center and is being co-directed by Dr. Barbara Fiese and Dr. Sharon Donovan. “The Family Resiliency Center is excited about this partnership as this research project will make important contributions towards informing policy and practice that he p families create healthy habits for their children from the beginning ” says FRC Director Fiese STRONG Kids 2 is built upon previous research with preschool aged children, documenting the relationship among genetic, child, and family factors in predicting BMI and dietary habits.