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DPH Commissioner Competes in the Kitchen to Curb Childhood Obesity

July 18, 2014

With a blender in one hand and a bowl full of spinach in the other, Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., was determined to create something children would not only love to eat, but also something nutritious. It was no easy task, considering the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) had to win the hearts and taste buds of the toughest food critics anywhere – children.

“Nothing makes you stronger than spinach,” Fitzgerald said, as video cameras captured her blending of spinach, pineapple, bananas and juice along with a serving of pop culture. “I introduce the Ninja Turtle Ooze Smoothie.”

The reaction of the child judges brought absolute confirmation of what researchers have known for years – healthy eating must be fun for children.

Fitzgerald’s invited appearance is part of a video series being developed by the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) aimed at reducing childhood obesity by empowering childcare providers in Georgia with ideas and a set of standards.

“When we consider that 11 million children under age five in the U.S. are in some form of childcare each week, reaching those care providers is essential,” said DECAL Interim Commissioner Amy Jacobs, also a cook-off competitor. “Care providers are a critical link to better child nutrition since many children consume a majority of their meals in childcare.”

Soon the video will be made available to nearly 5,500  childcare facilities in Georgia through Quality Rated – a childcare quality rating and improvement program made possible in part by an innovative private-public partnership between DECAL, Healthy Kids Georgia, and Dole Packaged Foods.  Child health, nutrition and physical activity are among the key standards promoted by Quality Rated.

“We have a very special treat for everyone today. The commissioners are going to show us how to prepare an easy, healthy snack that the children in your care will actually enjoy,” said Jennifer Popadiuk, registered dietitian and DECAL’s nutrition project manager, as she opened the video. “Now, let’s get cooking.”

Fitzgerald blended up the ooze smoothie. Jacobs reinvented the concept of French fries and ketchup with pineapple fruit fries and strawberry-banana ketchup.

So which commissioner won the cook-off? The video will be released next month.

To learn more about the Quality Rated program, visit: