Berkeley took on Big Soda in 2014 and won. Now more communities are following the California city’s lead: Taxes on sugary drinks already have been proposed this year in Oakland, San Francisco and Philadelphia. Predictably, the soda industry is responding with arguments familiar from the Berkeley battle – but the lived experience there continues to undermine them.
For example, the anti-tax campaign ran ads predicting the tax revenue would not go to support prevention efforts because, “There’s no oversight as to where that money will be going.” In practice, however, an expert panel created by the tax measure has succeeded in directing the money toward community-based initiatives to address the consumption of sugary drinks and their impacts on health.
According to Xavier Morales, Executive Director of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California and vice chair of the panel, last week they recommended that the Berkeley City Council allocate:
$245,874 to Healthy Black Families to enact “Thirsty for Change!” This program would help reduce health inequities by exposing the industry’s predatory marketing practices in communities of color.
$115,266 to the Ecology Center to lead “It’s Your Body – Don’t Hate, Hydrate!” This program would increase awareness of the health risks of consuming sugary drinks and promote consumption of tap water among Berkeley youth ages 14 to 22.
$151,031 to the YMCA to support their head-start based efforts to instill lifelong healthy nutrition habits in children.
$125,000 to the Berkeley Youth Alternatives to conduct a social marketing campaign that promotes good nutrition habits free of sugary drinks.
When you hear Big Soda repeat its argument that revenue raised won’t be spent wisely, remember what happened in Berkeley. The city now has money to invest in its community and its children so they can avoid a preventable diabetes crisis. We look forward to seeing even more information coming out of Berkeley which dispels the myths churned out by the soda industry.