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.

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