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  • Real world issues and nutrition education

    Carol Sloan, RD

    Nutrition consultant to the Food and Beverage Industry


    Last Thursday I followed the elections with the rest of America, and was eye-pulled by Measure D, the “soda tax” initiative in Berkeley. The majority voted “yes” for additional taxes (1 cent per ounce) on sodas and other select sugar sweetened beverages, to be directed to the distributor and likely be passed onto the consumer.

    Having worked in a school district for several years with the charge to decrease type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, and obesity in K-8 students, (not all too different from the concerns of my Bay area neighbors…) never did nutrition and health educators point to one food or beverage as the cause for these health issues.  Instead we taught portion control, label reading, and to enjoy consuming a variety of beverages including water. We shared the details on the sugar content of sodas but also talked about cookies, chips, candy, and how to fit all foods and beverages into a regular meal plan. I could see the students listening intently, absorbing this knowledge to take home to share with their families. These kids were learning to make their own informed decisions on what to eat and drink -without added costs to persuade their purchases or the government in their groceries.

    I believe that the proponents of Measure D had good intentions, but sin taxes are not the way to go. Limiting calories in general is a tip I share with clients, but I would never discourage the consumption of any specific food or beverage group. Nutrition education that encourages portion control, daily physical activity, and a balance of calories is what can, and does, work.

    I’m sure the proponents of Measure D are still celebrating their “success” in Berkeley.  However, I see the majority of the population in small towns and cities across the nation trying to manage daily groceries on a budget, to get their kids to school on time, and to provide a healthy dinner after working a long day. It may be too late to educate Berkeley, but let’s celebrate and support these families by continuing to provide nutrition education about soda and other drinks utilizing sources such as the Clear on Calories initiative or the Calories Count initiative.

  • The Politics of Food Choice

    Amy Mydral Miller, MS, RDN

    Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

    Carmichael, California

    I was raised on a farm in North Dakota. My dad was a Democratic farmer, my mom a Republican politician. Political issues were the cornerstone of any family conversation at the dinner table. Today I’m a registered Independent voter, free to make the best choices based on my values and beliefs versus party politics.

    Freedom of choice is an essential American value, one I cherish. And freedom of choice is just as important to me when it comes to politics as when selecting foods in a supermarket or on a restaurant menu.

    I’m a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and I believe in helping people make informed choices. I’m not in favor of taxing specific foods or beverages, but rather in favor of providing information that helps consumers make informed choices when it comes to nutrition, physical activity, and creating environments that support healthful eating and physical activity.

    I was concerned but not surprised to see that voters in Berkeley, Calif., passed a soda tax. I’ll be interested in seeing if the tax has any significant impact on public health. The causes of obesity and diabetes are many, and so are the options for improving public health. I am doubtful that the penny-per-ounce tax on soda will see much improvement in health.

    If activists in Berkeley want to promote the health and wellbeing of all citizens, I’d recommend they look at actions like increasing PE class requirements in public schools, improving access to and safety in city parks and recreation centers, re-paving cracked and broken sidewalks, improving street lighting to improve the safety of walking to/from public transportation, or adding short-term bicycle rental stations throughout the city.

    You know, now that I think about it, the soda tax may actually do some good; it may encourage people to choose to walk or bike to Albany, Oakland, Emeryville, or other neighboring cities to buy their soda. 

  • Voters in San Francisco & Massachusetts Stand Up for Consumer Choice

    Yesterday, residents in San Francisco and Massachusetts stood up to increased taxation and regulation and voted to protect consumer choice.

    San Francisco rejected a two cent per ounce soda tax by a wide margin - 12% of the needed vote - and Massachusetts overwhelmingly said no to an expansion of its bottle deposit law to include to bottled water, sports drinks, and other noncarbonated beverages.

    Time and again – 30 times already across the U.S. –Americans have rejected taxes on common grocery items. Folks like you realize that what goes into your grocery cart is your choice, not the government’s.

    One city, however – the most liberal city in California, Berkeley - passed a one cent per ounce on soda. But Berkeley is not like mainstream America. The anti-soda activists picked the lowest hanging piece of fruit on their quest for discriminatory taxes after years of trying and failing in states and cities across the country. As we mentioned, on the same day, San Francisco defeated a soda tax and voters in Massachusetts rejected an expansion of its bottle bill tax.

    What happened in Berkeley was more about making a political statement than it was sound public policy.

    If politicians in this country want to stake their reputation on what Berkeley has done, then they do so at their own risk. Voter across the country sent a strong message this election – and it wasn’t a plea for more taxes.

    Thanks for helping us protect consumer choice. Stand up to discriminatory soda taxes. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter to share the message and send this to a friend.

    We can pick out our groceries without the government’s help!

    Americans for Food and Beverage Choice

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