Originally published May 13, 2013
The Coca-Cola Company is giving $1 million to Georgia SHAPE to help fight childhood obesity in Georgia.
In a news conference Wednesday at the World of Coca-Cola, Gov. Nathan Deal joined Muhtar Kent, chairman and chief executive officer of the Coca-Cola Company, and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to celebrate the company's pledge to support programs that help Georgians live healthier, more active lifestyles.
"We believe we have a role to play in helping to create lasting solutions" to the obesity crisis, Kent said. "We want to help people get healthier here in our own backyard."
The money will help implement a Georgia SHAPE initiative encouraging 30 minutes of additional physical activity in all Georgia elementary schools. This physical activity is in addition to structured physical education classes, not a replacement and can be led by any teacher. The data is clear: Physical activity means higher test scores, increased attention in class and a healthier student population.
"We're trying to make sure physical activity becomes an everyday part of school for our children," Deal said. "That commitment is starting to show us the results we want."
Georgia was once known as the state with the second highest rate of childhood obesity in the U.S. But in April, government statistics showed a 5 percent decrease in the state's childhood obesity rate, dropping Georgia to the 17th spot on the list. Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, said that kind of progress is encouraging, but there is still much work to be done.
"This generous award will have a significant impact on the lives of our children today and well into the future," Fitzgerald said. "Unless we address this obesity epidemic facing our children right now, they will likely suffer life-long consequences of obesity -- diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. With this money we can make a real difference."
The Coca-Cola Company is giving a total of $3.8 million to programs working to make all Georgians healthier, including the $1 million contribution to Georgia SHAPE; $1 million to Walk Georgia, a physical activity promotion program created by the University of Georgia's Cooperative Extension; and $1 million to Atlanta's Centers of Hope, Reed's initiative to provide after-school programs and development for Atlanta youth. The remaining $800,000 will go to other physical activity programs, including the Atlanta Beltline and the PATH Foundation.
In 2012, the Coca-Cola Company joined Georgia SHAPE's network of collaborative partnerships, which include leading organizations from the worlds of business, government, education, philanthropy and health care.
Kent said the contribution is part of Coca-Cola's global effort to fight obesity. In addition to supporting physical activity programs around the world, the company will also continue to offer low- and no-calorie beverages, feature calorie counts on the front of all their products and ban any marketing to children under age 12.