2024 NEARS Explorer Program Applications Open

Apply today to participate in the 2024 NEARS Explorer Program! This funded opportunity from the National Environmental Health Association will support state food safety programs to explore the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Environmental Assessment Reporting System (NEARS) and Environmental Assessment Training Series (EATS).

Why participate in the Explorer Program?

The 2024 NEARS Explorer Program will support state food safety programs focused on exploring CDC NEARS. State agencies are eligible to receive up to $5,000 to participate.

This funding is approved to cover:

  • Staff time to gain knowledge and skills to become a CDC NEARS participant, including:
    • Practice conducting environmental assessments in an interactive virtual environment as part of an outbreak investigation team through EATS
    • Attending a CDC NEARS training webinar series
    • Attending a regional or national NEARS presentation
  • Purchase of environmental sampling and/or other investigation equipment to build workforce capacity in foodborne outbreak investigations
  • Promotion for local jurisdictions within the state to participate in NEARS

The program will begin February 1, 2024 and last four months. State, local, tribal, or territorial governmental food safety agencies not yet enrolled in CDC NEARS are eligible to participate.

Applications close December 1, 2023.

What is NEARS?

The CDC’s NEARS surveillance system captures environmental assessment data from foodborne illness outbreak investigations and can be used to improve your food safety program by providing deeper insight into outbreaks in your jurisdiction. Your program can access and use your NEARS data at any time to help you:

  • Identify environmental causes of outbreaks in your jurisdiction
  • Take follow-up action to reduce or prevent future foodborne illness outbreaks
  • Evaluate your food safety program and make improvements based on established guidelines
  • Develop or modify program policies or regulations
  • Focus limited program resources on actions with the highest impact
  • Meet the Food and Drug Administration’s Retail Food Program Standards – Standard 5

Note that jurisdictions can enroll in CDC NEARS at any time, participating in the Explorer Program is not required to register for CDC NEARS.