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  • What Does Food Mean to You?

    Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN


    Can you imagine a July 4th picnic with no hot dogs and lemonade? How about a ballgame without peanuts and soda? Would a visit to Santa be complete without cookies and hot cocoa? These are just a few examples of foods and drinks that have become part of the way we celebrate special occasions or are a part of our religious, ethnic, and national heritage. You could say the stories of our lives are filled with food and beverage anecdotes!

    As a registered dietitian and cultural anthropologist, I know eating is about more than just nourishing our bodies. Foods and drinks have special meaning to people around the world and these beliefs are passed on from generation to generation every time they are served in a traditional way. Anyone who has blown out candles on a birthday cake knows what I’m talking about!  

    When taxes and other restrictions are proposed to diminish the role of certain foods and beverages in our diets they often overlook the role they might play in these important customs. They also overlook the fact there is no one diet that is right for everyone, yet we can all benefit from nutrition education to make better food choices to meet our daily needs.

    In my 40 years of counseling people about healthy eating I have never recommended the same dietary plan twice. Instead I have worked to help each of my clients make the changes they were ready and able to make to improve their personal eating habits. This has always involved listening very closely to the meanings of different foods and beverages in their lives so that I could show them how they could continue to enjoy them in moderation.

    Supporting more nutrition education can help us eat better without trampling on our traditions. All Americans deserve the right to make their food and beverage choices without being arbitrarily taxed because policy makers want to discourage us from including certain items in our diets. Education, not regulation, is the only effective way to improve public health without infringing on personal freedoms and customs.

  • What’s Next? Soda Tax Doesn’t Just Affect Soda Drinkers

    When is a soda tax not a soda tax? When it also applies to dozens of sugar-sweetened beverages. Proposed "soda" taxes encompass a lot of the beverages people enjoy every day starting with your morning cup of joe to your iced tea at dinner. Here is a list of beverages that "soda taxes" target, giving the government yet another say in your wallet, your cart, and at your family dinner table.

    Tell politicians that your cart is your choice. 

    • Lemonades
    • Fruit Punch
    • Cranberry Juices
    • Smoothies
    • Grape Juice
    • Orange Juice
    • Pomegranate Drinks
    • Mixed Berry Drinks
    • Apple Juice
    • Mango Juice
    • Tea Drinks
    • Pineapple Juice
    • Vegetable Juice Blends
    • Apple Cider
    • Hot Cocoa
    • Rice Drinks
    • Coffee Beverages
    • Energy Drinks
    • Kombucha
    • Soymilk
    • Almond Milk
    • Protein Shakes
    • Sports Drinks
    • Root Beer
    • Ginger Ale
    • Milkshakes
    • Ice Blended Beverages
  • Orange County Register: Soda Tax is Regressive, Won’t Work

    A recent opinion piece in the Orange County Register notes that what is most troubling about the new Berkeley, CA soda tax is that, “… the tax is regressive, since the poor consume a disproportionate amount of sugary drinks, and that the tax revenue will almost certainly be wasted on unrelated programs or used to pay city employees’ pensions, is the idea behind the soda tax that people are too stupid to make decisions about what to put into their bodies.” Berkeley’s soda tax is also inconsistent as their 1-cent-per-ounce tax excludes items like, diet soda, chocolate milk, 100 percent fruit juices, and alcohol. Last time we checked, a 12 ounce apple juice has exactly as much sugar as Coca Cola along with extra calories – so where’s the logic?

    Time and time again, Americans tell the government that they do not want soda taxes and do not believe that they will impact their food and beverage choices. A November 2013 Pew Research Center poll found that a whopping 64 percent of Americans oppose raising taxes of sugary soft drinks or unhealthy foods. Most recently one of America’s most liberal cities, San Francisco, failed to reach the two-thirds threshold needed on Proposition E, which would have imposed a 2-cents-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks, yet politicians still think that taxes are the solution. So don’t let nearby Berkeley fool you. Berkeley is not a trend, it’s a political statement by food activists.

    Berkeley’s questionable priorities are not consistent with the rest of the country where soda taxes have been dismissed in 31 various cities, states and localities. Americans know that the government cannot legislate health and together we will continue the fight against these failed policies.

    As the OC Register put it, "If government can tax and regulate what you drink with your lunch, what freedoms are safe from nanny-state intervention?” Something to think about. And fight against.

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