Who is GPAN?
The GPAN Coalition was formed in 1996 under the name of the Georgia Coalition for Nutrition Education (GCNE). The GCNE, later GPAN, was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for a five year period. The purpose of this USDA grant was to provide nutrition education for low-income children by bringing together state entities, educators, and business leaders. The hope for bringing these groups together was to foster business interest in an area that had been the purview of educators in the past. During this initial 5-year period the recipients of the funding were: the Georgia Department of Human Resources (DHR), Office of Nutrition, the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service, Georgia State University, Departments of Nutrition and Anthropology, the Georgia Department of Education (DOE), Food and Nutrition Offices, and the DHR Department of Family and Children Services. The members of the GCNE decided to continue the coalition after the USDA funding expired. Funds were garnered by hosting a golf tournament.
Between 1999-2001, the GCNE members participated in writing the state plan for the Prevention of Cardiovascular and Related Chronic Diseases. This state plan was developed under a grant provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with a focus on “policy and environmental changes” in the domains of school, worksite, healthcare, and the community at large. This project took the GCNE into a broader focus on nutrition and physical activity for the general population. In 2002, the name was changed to the Georgia Coalition for Physical Activity and Nutrition (GPAN) to reflect this broader mission.
In 2002, GPAN was successful in bringing together members to advocate for a study committee to examine the status of physical education and physical activity in the school setting. A Senate Resolution passed the Georgia General Assembly to form this Joint Study Committee. The Study Committee named 3 Senators and 3 from the House of Representatives. The chairperson for this panel was the Honorable Sistie Hudson from the 124th House District. The panel met four times and heard testimony from the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Georgia State University, the American Heart Association, and others. The panel report included ten recommendations for improving access to physical activity in the school setting. These recommendations included adding a Coordinator at the state DOE for Physical Education, adding a Coordinator at the state DOE to oversee the recently placed School Nurse Program, and getting PE back into the Quality Core Curriculum (QCC) as a required subject. (PE had inadvertently been displaced to the ‘elective’ category by the Governor’s Education Reform Bill, which sought to place emphasis on academic subjects in hopes of improving national test scores for Georgia).
GPAN has continued on the path of empowering community groups to advocate for improved health through policy and environmental changes.