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Eating Well with Public Health

April 7, 2014

The system that keeps our nation’s food safe and healthy is complex. From deciphering food labels and weighing healthy meal options to cooking food safely and preventing foodborne illness, people must make a lot of choices to eat well. The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) works to guide Georgians through their choices.

In Georgia:

  • Georgia has the nation’s fifth largest Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition program, serving more than 270,000 mothers and children every day. WIC provides vouchers for healthy foods including whole grains, fruits, vegetables and milk along with nutrition counseling and breastfeeding education.
  • DPH supports programs around the state that educate Georgians about nutrition, especially how a healthy diet can prevent chronic diseases like diabetes.
  • Georgia SHAPE, Gov. Nathan Deal’s childhood obesity initiative, supports Georgia schools in their efforts to teach children about eating well, including planting school gardens and building farm-to-school programs.
  • Eating well also means promoting and supporting food safety. In 2013, DPH responded to 26 confirmed outbreaks of foodborne illness around the state. For each outbreak, epidemiologists and environmental health specialists interview those who were sickened, inspect food service facilities and provide education about safe food handling and containing the illness.
  • DPH’s Environmental Health program regulates and routinely inspects more than 24,500 food service establishments in the state.
  •  DPH employees also have many opportunities to learn how to improve their own diets. The Office of Worksite Wellness offers weekly classes choosing healthier foods and cooking delicious, healthy meals. 

Did you know?

  • The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, released on Jan. 31, 2011, emphasizes three major goals for Americans: Balance calories with physical activity to manage weight, consume more of certain foods and nutrients such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood, and consume fewer foods with sodium, saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars and refined grains.
  • In total, Americans now eat 31 percent more calories than they did 40 years ago, including 56 percent more fats and oils and 14 percent more sugars and sweeteners. The average American now eats 15 more pounds of sugar a year than in 1970. 
  • In 2010, only 30 percent of Georgia adults reported eating the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) led efforts to pass the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, legislation that paves the way to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs by improving the critical nutrition and hunger safety net for nearly 32 million children who eat school lunch each day and the 12 million who eat breakfast at school.
  • Foodborne contaminants cause an average of 5,000 deaths, 325,000 hospitalizations and 76 million illnesses and cost billions of dollars annually.  The five most common foodborne pathogens cost the U.S. economy more than $44 billion each year in medical costs and lost productivity.