The Institute of Child Nutrition (ICN), part of the School of Applied Sciences at The University of Mississippi, is the only federally funded national center dedicated to applied research, education and training, and technical assistance for child nutrition programs. The Institute was established by Congress in the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 1989. It is funded by a grant administered through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). The specific duties of the Institute can be found in Section 21 of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act. The Institute's mission is to provide information and services that promote the continuous improvement of child nutrition programs.

The Institute is comprised of four divisions that work hand in hand to aid child nutrition and child care professionals in the operation of successful child nutrition programs. The Education and Training, Information Services, and Administration divisions are headquartered on the Oxford campus of the University of Mississippi. The Applied Research Division, which is operated in cooperation with The University of Southern Mississippi, is located in Hattiesburg.

A trusted source for accurate, reliable information, the Institute offers face-to-face and on-site training seminars at little or no cost and free online courses designed to support the professional development of child nutrition program and child care personnel at all levels of responsibility. The Institute also delivers free training resources managers can use to train their staff.

The Institute conducts pre-conference sessions and other presentations at association meetings and offers satellite seminars and webinars that focus on current issues. Other support materials, such as newsletters, fact sheets, recipes, and instructional videos can be found free of charge on the ICN website.

The Institute operates a Help Desk that provides a direct link to experts who can answer a wide range of questions on all aspects of child nutrition program management. The Child Nutrition Archives collects and preserves the exciting history of the federally funded child nutrition program.

The Applied Research Division conducts comprehensive, needs-based studies that focus on areas that directly impact the success of child nutrition programs. The Institute's research has been used by state agencies to set standards for program professionals and design training programs and materials and has been used to support the certification and credentialing program for the School Nutrition Association (SNA).

The Institute's state-of-the-art facility was dedicated on March 23, 2001 and designated the R. Gerald Turner building on February 16, 2007. It houses a first class training lab, an auditorium designed for distance learning and teleconferences, and the Child Nutrition Archives.