One plank of Mayor Dan Wolk’s healthy children’s initiative is offering alternatives to sugary drinks at restaurants and making low-fat milk the default beverage.
Next Tuesday, the council will hear information from First 5 Yolo and could potentially direct “staff to work with the City Attorney to draft an ordinance addressing sugary beverages in kids’ meals, start outreach to local restaurants about proposed changes and return to Social Services Commission and to Council once a draft ordinance is complete.”
In the city staff report, they report that California and the nation is experiencing a childhood obesity epidemic. “In Davis, one-quarter of all children in grades 5, 7 and 9 are overweight or obese. In 2012, more than half of all Davis 5th, 7th, and 9th graders failed to meet the CA Fitness Standards,” staff reports.
They write, “Sugary beverages play a central and unique role in the obesity epidemic. Studies have found a significant link between sugary drink consumption and weight gain in children. Soda and sugary beverages are the single largest source of calories in children’s diets, and provide nearly half of kids’ added sugar intake.
“Cities are enacting policies to increase access to healthy beverages for children, such as adopting standards for beverages provided in parks, recreational facilities, and city-sponsored programs,” staff writes. “Restaurants serve as another important venue within cities where changing local policies on healthy beverages could contribute to the fight against childhood obesity.”
Staff continues, “Cities can promote good health for their youngest residents and support parents in purchasing healthy beverages for their children by adopting a policy that requires restaurants to offer water or low-fat milk as part of any kids’ meal unless a customer specifically requests an alternative beverage. First 5 Yolo has been working to explore whether the City of Davis could adopt such a policy.”
The city has previously adopted nutritional standards related to the sale of food in vending machines and concession stands at its parks and pool facilities. The city had a goal of providing food compliance with “nutritional standards in 100% of its concession stand and vending at Arroyo Pool, but subsequently determined that 50% at all of the pool sites was more acceptable due to public feedback and decreases in revenue. The general feedback the city has received is that the public is interested in having options at the pool sites.”
The Social Services Commission took action at their September meeting to unanimously recommend that the Davis City Council “support an initiative to require the default option for drinks that accompany children’s meals to be low-fat milk or water, allowing juice or soda to still be available upon request should the parent wish to have that option.”
The commission recommended further “that the City look for opportunities to provide increased health education to the community.”
Finally, “Members of the commission requested that draft ordinance language return to them for consideration if the Council acted to proceed with this policy. Staff recommends considering a policy regarding beverage options in local children’s meals. If Council is interested in pursuing such a policy, staff will work with legal counsel to develop a draft ordinance and will return to Council. Staff will also engage in outreach with local restaurants about the proposed changes prior to returning to the City Council.”
The First 5 report finds that “sugary drinks play a central and unique role in the obesity epidemic.” They found that “soda and sugary drinks are the single largest source of calories in children’s diets and provide nearly half of kids’ sugar intake.”
Forty-one percent of children aged two to 11 and 62 percent of those aged 12 to 17 drink at least one soda or other sugar-sweetened beverage every day.
The risk of obesity increases by 60 percent with each additional daily serving of soda, which contains 16 teaspoons of sugar for each 20-ounce serving, making sweetened beverages the largest single source of added sugar in American diet.
Bodies absorb sugar far faster when we consume them in liquids as compared to solids, raising blood sugar levels in just 30 minutes.
The Vanguard previously reported on concerns about the quality and high sugar content in food served for breakfast to mainly Title I kids – a good percentage of whom get the majority of their food at school.
We have heard from teachers in schools like Montgomery that it’s a real problem because the kids, many of whom eat breakfast at school, load up on sugary food and then end up crashing mid-morning. This impacts not only their health but also their education.
According to First 5, many cities are enacting policies to increase access to healthy beverages for children, including adopting standards for beverages to be provided at city sponsored facilities.
However, the problem clearly goes beyond beverages, as children consume about 20 percent of their calories from fast food and other restaurants – though beverages are a huge contributor.
First 5 suggests cities offer water or low-fat milk as part of kids’ meals unless a customer specifically requests an alternative beverage. They can also display water and low-fat milk more prominently on menus and menu boards along with information about kids’ meals.
First 5 notes that one-fifth of the 122 restaurants in Davis offer kids’ meals that include sugar-sweetened beverages as the default, while one-fourth offer healthier choices like milk, water, or 100% fruit juice as a default beverage.
First 5 then calls out: Applebee’s, Beach Hut Deli, Bistro 33, Black Bear Diner, Cafe Bernardo, Carl’s Jr., de Vere’s, Del Taco, Habit Burger, Jack in the Box, Lamppost Pizza, Paesanos Panda Express, Pluto’s, Round Table Pizza, Sudwerk, Taco Bell and Togo’s as including a sugary drink with their kids’ meals.
—David M. Greenwald reporting