Policy Profile: Oakland, CA Sweetened Drink Tax

What worked in Oakland

Each community has unique circumstances that dictate how it will frame and design its campaign. Here are some lessons learned from health advocates in Oakland:

  • It was vital to build a strong and diverse coalition with leadership that the community knows and trusts. A core group of health advocates, faith leaders, elected officials and leaders representing diverse communities joined by spring 2016.
  • Political expertise and organizers: Having a political consultant with experience in Berkeley’s sugary drink tax campaign was a huge asset in strategizing and running the campaign. It was also critical to have paid, trained organizers.
  • Oakland residents were exposed to health messages about sugary drinks through educational programs in schools, faith-based organizations, and public health department programs (Rethink Your Drink).
  • Early signed endorsements from health leaders, elected officials and leaders of color are critical. Endorsements included: Asian Health Services, 100 Black Men, and the president of Oakland’s NAACP chapter.
  • Utilized community relationships and trusted people to spread the word, one-on-one.
  • Focused messages on health, Big Soda marketing to people of color, and what funding can do.
  • Established the Community Advisory Board to guarantee a community voice in funding allocation process to address concerns about how the money would be spent.
  • Media – used earned media, social media, and media consultants to help create ongoing buzz.
  • Fundraising early was important.
  • Took advantage of online tools to organize volunteers early on. Activated them when enthusiastic.
  • Important to get messages out through local channels before Big Soda came to town.
  • Business outreach was important early on, before Big Soda reached them.


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