Informing the Public About Nutrition:

Federal Agencies Should Do Better

CED-78-75: Published: Mar 22, 1978. Publicly Released: Mar 22, 1978.

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A large share of the Nation's health costs has been attributed to hunger and poor eating habits. A primary cause of poor nutrition is lack of consumer knowledge about the proper selection and preparation of food. Most of the Federal Government's nutrition information is produced by the Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW), and 12 agencies within these departments administer the dissemination of information developed by at least seven Federal Departments and commissions.

Information concerning Federal spending for nutrition information and education is not readily available, but the Congressional Research Service determined that at least $69.3 million was spent for nutrition education in fiscal year (FY) 1976. Results of a questionnaire indicated that: agencies in USDA and HEW lacked defined areas of responsibility making it difficult for users to identify sources of materials on specific topics; use of nutrition materials authorized by other agencies was limited; printed materials accounted for 84 percent of materials disseminated, although there was no assurance that this was the most effective method of dissemination; few materials developed by the Federal Government were formally evaluated; only 5 of 352 publications identified had a total distribution of over 1 million copies in FY 1975 and 1976; and most agencies lacked information on the cost to develop materials for dissemination.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: The Secretaries of USDA and HEW should: designate a central authority to serve as a continuing review board in the future development of nutrition information materials; establish an intradepartmental task force which would assess nutrition-related material developed by each department; and establish an interdepartmental task force to consider such matters as coordination between departments to avoid duplication and insure coverage of necessary areas, the most cost-effective means of reaching consumers, and the role of the Federal Government in cooperating with State and local agencies. Results of task force reports and recommendations should be submitted to Congress.


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