Coca-Cola pledges $3.8 million in grants to fight obesity in Georgia

By Maria Saporta

The Coca-Cola Co. Wednesday morning pledged $3.8 million in grants to help fight the obesity epidemic in Georgia.

In a press conference at the World of Coca-Cola with Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent said: “We are inspiring our hometown of Atlanta and home state of Georgia to be active.”

The effort is part of Kent’s belief in the “golden triangle” of government, business and civil society working together to work on community issues and comes on the 127th birthday of Coca-Cola Co.

“Golden triangle efforts like these and others in Colorado, Chicago and San Antonio amplify the active role we must all take in helping to tackle the complex issue of obesity,” Kent said. “We can only succeed with the collaboration of local governments, community leaders and other willing partners.”

The Coca-Cola Foundation has pledged $3.8 million to support statewide initiatives to help people get active, including $1 million for Georgia SHAPE and $1 million for Walk Georgia initiatives.

Georgia SHAPE is Gov. Deal’s strategy to address childhood obesity will use the additional funding to increase the time children are active before, during and after school. The program will also include nutrition education curricula for Georgia schools.

Walk Georgia was created by the University of Georgia’s Cooperative Extension Service. This initiative focuses on community-oriented physical activity programs customized by community members. Participants can engage in a variety of activities such as dancing, cycling and gardening and convert those actions into steps. Those steps are converted into miles. As participants accumulate miles, they virtually move across a map of the state, viewing fun facts about each county visited and learning new ways to improve health.

“One of our strategic goals for the state is to reduce childhood obesity and encourage healthy lifestyles through preventive care, disease care and early intervention,” Deal said. “Working with Coca-Cola and others to strengthen programs such as Georgia SHAPE and Walk Georgia gives Georgians of all ages and abilities more opportunities to become physically active.”

A $1 million grant to the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta will support the City of Atlanta’s Centers of Hope program. The program, which also serves at-risk youth, brings physical activity, leadership development, nutrition education and academic enrichment to almost 2,000 young Atlantans.

Through the grant, the program will expand from its two pilot locations to 10 of the City’s recreation centers. The initiative has a multi-generational strategy, offering additional resources for parents to receive their GED certification, along with parenting and nutrition education workshops.

“Investing in Atlanta’s youth through programs designed to teach them about the importance of wellness and physical fitness in a safe, structured learning environment is one of my top priorities,” Mayor Reed said. “This generous grant to support the Centers of Hope enables the City of Atlanta to expand its successful pilot program at the Thomasville and Adamsville Recreation Centers into a sustainable, community-based initiative for young people.”

Other grant recipients include:

The PATH Foundation: $500,000; the YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta: $75,000; the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership: $100,000; Piedmont Park: $30,000; Soccer in the Streets: $75,000; and the Ryan Cameron Foundation: $25,000.

Earlier today, The Coca-Cola Company announced four global strategic business actions across the more than 200 countries in which it operates to help fight the obesity epidemic:

  • Offer low- or no-calorie beverage options in every market;
  • Provide transparent nutrition information, featuring calories on the front of all of our packages;
  • Help get people moving by supporting physical activity programs in every country where we do business;
  • Market responsibly, including no advertising to children under 12 anywhere in the world.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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