Nutrition

A Soda Consolidation

GEORGE: Soda. S-O-D-A. Soda.
CARRIE: I don't know, it sounds a little strange.
GEORGE: All names sound strange the first time you hear 'em. What, you’re
telling me people loved the name Blanche the first time they heard it?
KEN: Yeah, but uh... Soda?
GEORGE: Yeah, that's right. It's working.
CARRIE: We'll put it on the list.
GEORGE: I solve problems. That's just what I do.

                                Seinfeld, The Seven, Ep. 43, 02.01.6


New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to ban on sweet drinks larger than 16 0z. (or for dramatic purposes, the Soda Ban) was approved by the NYC Board of Health on Thursday. Be that is it may, it’s nearly impossible to begin a discussion on the Soda Ban, or any New York City food regulation, without reviewing a few of the previous initiatives released by the New York City Department of Health (DOH).

January 2007 saw Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s creation of the Food Policy Task Force (FPTF), a move made in an effort to help identify three priority areas: 1) increasing access to food support programs; 2) making the food that the city serves healthier; and 3) promoting health food access and demand. Ultimately, the Food Policy Task Force was established to collaborate efforts from a number of city agencies to increase access to healthy foods for low-income New Yorkers. Whether or not this is still the case in 2012 is difficult to say.

The Food Policy Task Force was established to collaborate efforts from a number of City agencies to increase access to healthy foods for low-income New Yorkers. Whether or not this is still the case in 2012 is difficult to say.

At the end of the day, a New Yorker is better off detaching himself from political facebook and unnecessary slander (nanny state, nanny mayor, and so on) to take a step back and take a look at the research. The facts. There is, after all, very good reason why many policies and initiatives prior to the Soda Ban received a lot less criticism; simply said – these were mostly build on solid evidence:

  • To begin, the Farmers Market Initiative calls upon increasing the number of Farmers Markets in high-need neighborhoods.
  • The Health Bucks Initiative works synergistically – providing greater incentive for customers to use EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) at Farmers Markets.
  • The FRESH Initiative uses zoning and tax incentives to attract and retain supermarkets that sell fresh food in neighborhoods with high rates of obesity and diabetes.
  • The Green Carts Initiative launched the explosion of mobile fruits and vegetable carts in designated areas of the city chosen based on low neighborhood fruit consumption.
  • Finally, the Bodega Initiative invites the city to work with bodegas and grocery stores to increase the availability of healthy foods in “food desserts.”

The take-home message is that such initiatives aimed to eliminate health disparities. TheSoda Ban, on the other hand, will only apply to food service establishments  regulated by the DOH: restaurants, mobile food carts, delis, and concessions at movie theaters, stadiums and arenas. This so-called Ban excludes grocery stores and convenience stores (which can even carry 2-liter sized sweet drinks). The reasoning behind the Soda Ban is hard to grasp, especially after a publication released just earlier this month by the DOH itself stated that bodegas account for 86% of food stores in neighborhoods with a higher consumption of sugary drinks, such as East and Central Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick.

At the end of the day, a New Yorker is better off detaching himself  from political facebook and unnecessary slander (nanny statenanny mayor, and so on) to take a step back and take a look at the research. The facts.

Once you read the fine print, the idea of a real Soda Ban no longer seems like such a bad idea; the policy simply falls short of targeting the areas that currently need regulation the most.  In a similar scenario, just last December, city officials were excited to announce that NYC witnessed a 5.5% decrease in childhood obesity among children grades K through 8.  While this may be true, the decrease was over 4 times greater compared to  Hispanic children, and nearly 6 times greater compared to Black children. Something such as a Soda Ban (in all the wrong places) would only further exacerbate such healthy disparities.

The Soda Ban fails to target the areas that need regulation the most. Once you read the fine print, the idea of a real Soda Ban no longer seems like such a bad idea.

In an attempt to improve the health of fellow New Yorkers, the Soda Ban is more likely to further widen the socioeconomic gap. The policy is not so much a Ban as it is a Consolidation; the isolation of a few low-income neighborhoods – concentrated with all the 2-liter bottles of Coke one can ask for.

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