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Department of Health Highlights How Raising the Minimum Wage, Department Education Programs Can Improve Nutrition Among Pennsylvanians

Harrisburg, PA - Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine today reminded Pennsylvanians about the importance of eating healthy foods and highlighted how an increase in the state’s minimum wage can have a positive impact on good nutrition and good health.

According to’s Hunger and Health report, one in eight Americans were food insecure in 2017, which translates into 40 million Americans who lack the financial resources for food. Insufficient wages also mean competition among necessities such as rent and other household expenses, leaving sufficient nutritious food often out of the picture.

“By increasing the state’s minimum wage, we can help Pennsylvanians afford the nutritious food they need to live a healthful life,” Dr. Levine said. “All of the work our department does in educating residents of all ages on good nutrition practices means nothing if people can’t afford the food they need to live a healthful life. Governor Wolf wants to raise the minimum wage to $12 per hour with a pathway to $15. Raising the wage floor, as 29 states, including all of our neighbors, have done would boost incomes for nearly two million Pennsylvania workers, mostly adult women.

“More and more we look at the social determinants of health, including food insecurity to assess health outcomes. It’s critical that we address what’s causing that insecurity. Low wages must be considered part of the aperture.”

“Good nutrition is essential to keeping current and future generations of Pennsylvanians healthy. It is imperative that all our residents, no matter their age, have access to quality foods and healthy environments. People who eat a healthy diet live longer and are at lower risk for serious health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.”

The department has several programs to help educate residents on healthy eating habits and to promote nutritious lives. The Pennsylvania Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care Program (PA NAP SACC) is a free, web-based tool that educates child care workers on ways to implement and improve nutrition and physical activity in their facilities. There are currently 89 early care and education centers from 33 different counties participating in the program.

Good nutrition during the first few years of a child’s life is essential for healthy growth and development. Children need a variety of vitamins and minerals to grow healthy and strong, and one way they can get these nutrients is through breastfeeding. Mothers should exclusively breastfeed their children for about six months, and then continue to breastfeed while introducing other foods until their child is about 12 months old. As children age, they can get the nutrients they need from eating a variety of foods high in vitamin D, such as eggs, milk, yogurt and some fish.

Adults also need to eat the right foods to get the proper nutrients and live a healthy life. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines are designed to help individuals eat a healthier diet and aim to promote health, prevent chronic disease and help people reach and maintain a healthy weight. The guidelines recommend that everyone eat a variety of vegetables and fruits daily. Adults should also incorporate whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, oils and protein such as seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, nuts and seeds into their everyday diet.

The department is working with other local health departments to increase access to healthy foods across the commonwealth by implementing food service guidelines in communities. Food service guidelines create healthy food environments at cafeterias, cafes, grills, snack bars, concession stands, vending machines and other venues where social functions are held.

The department is also working with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and The Common Market to implement food service guidelines in hospitals through the Good Food, Healthy Hospitals (GFHH) program. This program aims to transform hospital food environments and bring healthier options to employees, visitors, and patients.

Participating hospitals receive hands-on support to address their food selections in five key areas: patient meals; vending machines; purchased foods; catering; and cafeteria foods. The number of hospitals participating in the program this year will increase from 16 hospitals in Philadelphia, to 18 hospitals in Philadelphia and two new health systems outside of Philadelphia County.

For more information on the PA NAP SACC program and how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, visit or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

MEDIA CONTACT: Nate Wardle, 717-787-1783 or

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