Commentary: A Healthy Goal is a Good Goal For This Community

Big Sugary Drink Ban

On Tuesday night there was a brief discussion on the Council Goals. Most of these are frankly no-brainers and, of course, a bit vague, but one that generated some discussion was ensuring a safe and healthy community.

Some of the community members were concerned with provisions that seemed to back door fluoridation back into the community discussion. The provision read, “Distribute children’s dental information, including an emphasis on fluoride.” “Partner with community organizations including CommuniCare, First Five, and other community groups who work with children to supply children’s dental health information including an emphasis on fluoride.”

Some took this as an end run around the decision in 2013 not to fluoridate the water – council would quickly put an end to that.

For me, the more substantial portion of that is a provision that would require restaurants to make milk and water the default beverage with kids’ meals.

There was a public commenter on Tuesday who noted that, while it’s important to have healthy children, “it’s also very important for us to have liberty.” She went on to note, “If there was no other way for us to have healthy children, then of course I would be behind it, but the children have caretakers or families, they learn about health in school and they probably have doctors, so all of those people can tell them about what they should or shouldn’t drink.”

She added that she wanted those people in those venues to increase awareness about the importance of healthy eating and avoiding “sodas rather than imposing it on the local restaurateurs as you seem to want to do.”

I understand the point that the individual made here, and in an ideal world I would be beating the drum on liberty too. But this isn’t an ideal world and there are many kids whose caretakers are either not educated themselves on healthy eating or otherwise disengaged from the issue.

We live in an affluent community and yet, as we have noted before, nearly one in every four kids are Title I, meaning that they are low income.

Many of these children either do not have access to doctors and dentists and or do so through MediCal and do not have regular pediatricians monitoring their sugar intake.

In a city staff report from last fall, they write that California and the nation are 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.

Staff notes, “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.”

As we noted last fall and staff noted above, the First 5 reports 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.

It may be that some restaurants are, in fact, already making a change. At one fast food place, I noticed that their kids meal, in addition to hamburger or chicken and fries, offers apples, orange or yogurt as well as drinks consisting of milk, apple juice and orange juice as defaults rather than soda. You have to ask for soda.

It would be helpful if they offered low sugar apple and orange juice, as those juices can contain almost as much sugar as the soda, but at least it appears a step in the right direction.

The bottom line, however, is that when parents for a variety of reasons are not able to help their kids make healthy choices, we as a community should be able to step in and help fill the void. Whether you believe parents should do more or not, the childhood obesity epidemic suggests that they are not.

This sugary drink requirement only tells restaurants what their kids meals should offer as the “default” option, it does not dictate to anyone what the kids can or cannot have.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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35 Comments

  1. Tia Will

    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.”

    This sugary drink requirement only tells restaurants what their kids meals should offer as the “default” option, it does not dictate to anyone what the kids can or cannot have.”

    I also am a huge advocate for personal freedom and personal responsibility. And I do not see any infringement of liberty here. This proposal does not in any way limit what any parent can order for their child. Further it does not limit what any merchant can sell. What it does do is to remove the least healthy choice as the default. The current default makes it necessary to consciously ask not to receive the least healthful choice making it marginally  but unnecessarily more difficult to remember to make the best  choice every time.

    1. Frankly

      This is mostly a people behavior issue, and not so much a problem with available food.

      Have you noted the new victim group developing?… obese people are now “large people” and we are demanding more “plus sized” models and new PC-correctness and speech code rules are developing to make fat people a new class of people protected from “hate”.

      I bring this up not because I want society to be mean to obese people, but because I think the movement may be counter productive to this desire to curb obesity.

      We have good friends that grew up with terrible food habits and passed them on to their two kids.  One of them is very obese and drinks soda for breakfast and will not eat vegetables.   Make a comment about her eating habits and she goes into passive-aggressive depression and makes it clear that she is a proud big person and that the comments are mean.

      I think everyone has a certain metabolism and some people put on weight looking at a cookie, and others can eat the entire box and not gain an ounce.  And so I think there need to be social acceptance of some reasonable deviation of weight.

      But too much is too much.

      I think food education is a key.  But I also think we should not go so far to protect the truly obese from getting their feelings hurt.

      There is a TV show that has been pretty popular.  I think it is/was called “The Biggest Loser”.  They use boot camp style tactics to get people to drop the weight.  It is brutal, but of course in the end the transformation to a healthy lifestyle gives the subjects extra years of their life.

      1. Davis Progressive

        “This is mostly a people behavior issue, and not so much a problem with available food.”

        you’re in favor of legalized drugs, prostitution, and gambling, then?  i tend to favor legalization, but i still think we have a duty to protect children.

  2. hpierce

    Good retort… spot on,  let’s take one bullet out of the chamber, spin the chambers, and play obesity roulette, and we’ve saved the world.  Good thinking… am in awe of your cognitive and rhetorical prowess.  I bow to your wisdom.

    I said “healthy”, your said “healthier”, and implied that the two are the same. Nice.

  3. Frankly

    Many of these children either do not have access to doctors and dentists and or do so through MediCal and do not have regular pediatricians monitoring their sugar intake.

    WTH?

    Listen, with the massive tax increase and spending for Obamacare, you absolutely do not get to keep using this narrative as a bleeding heart liberal.   That is one of your costs to this partisan legislation.   You got it.  So now you don’t get to claim the victim mentality argument that people don’t have healthcare.  If they still cannot get themselves to their taxpayer funded medical service, then we really should be discussing the Darwinism theories that the secular left clings to as part of their pseudo religion.

    Good morning.

  4. wdf1

    Vanguard:  …nearly one in every four kids are Title I, meaning that they are low income.

    Where did you get that figure?  I can come up with a statistic for participation in the district free/reduced lunch program that comes close to 1 in 4 students, but as far as I know, Title I participation in the district seems a bit spottier.

  5. LadyNewkBahm

    no wood burning, no plastic bags, no armor for the police, no floride, no pesticides, no auto emissions,…… now making inroads to control the restraunt industry. It sure wont stop there…. just give in and give them one more avenue of control. you give an inch, they take a mile. the only question is what is going to come tomorrow.

    why? because they know what is best for us.

        1. Frankly

          What is very interesting about that comment… my near 40 years here has brought me to the conclusion that there is a silent majority that is more center and right of center… and that Davis is basically controlled by a more politically active extreme left… and is supported by the more moderate left.

          Listen, liberals tend to do a good job keeping a place nice to live.  But liberals left to their own ideas and power tend to make the place economically unsustainable and also layer on so many rules to life by that they kill diversity.

          If I were you I would welcome the push-back to help insure you don’t screw it up too bad.

        2. wdf1

          Frankly:  so many rules to life by that they kill diversity.

          What do you have in mind when you say “diversity”?

          Because it is possible to study census data for Davis and assess diversity of certain kinds.

    1. Frankly

      Or she can challenge the liberal collectivist attack on personal freedoms in the place she already lives, and the liberal can move to northern Europe where there is a greater acceptance of nanny government.

      1. Frankly

        Hard to say.  I assume without conservatives and independents and libertarians fighting the liberal obsession to control everyone else, block economic development and increase taxes… we would have many fewer freedoms and nanny government would be even more oppressive.

        Did you see that Target store in East Davis? < -- [moderator] off topic

        1. Frankly

          Ha!  Yeah.  And thanks to the help from those conservative types that want to protect their home equity and also don’t like traffic.

          But that never was a Measure R vote, it was that same left activist minority that got their way.

          And if more people in Davis really knew that the city gave away an asset worth $100 million for a $500k loss, I think there would be more rage… especially as the roads continue to crumble and pools continue to leak and programs and services continue to be cut.   And that tomato field continues to consume zillions of gallons of water that we don’t have.

          [moderator] off topic

    2. Tia Will

      LKB

      because they know what is best for us”

      Is it your contention that soda is better for children ?  If not, then your statement is objectively true, and why you would be upset about a fact based approach that does not impinge on anyone’s ability to buy or sell anything is beyond my comprehension.

      1. LadyNewkBahm

        “fact based approach that does not impinge on anyone’s ability to buy or sell anything is beyond my comprehension.”

        I could argue with the “fact based approach” claim, but what I really want to focus on is this is a power-play – telling restraunts what to do. I’m also not a fool – like everything else – it becomes a classic example of the slppery slope – getting the foot in the door to begin to bark orders at them about what they should sell and not sell – allows for further modifications in the future – next theyll have to sell bananas or whatever else – you people think up.

  6. Don Shor

    [moderator]I’m pretty sure the topic of this thread is healthy eating and regulation of beverages in restaurants. Please avoid national topics or land use policies. Thanks.

  7. Gunrocik

    Everyone is missing what is really going on.

    This is all about Dan’s political career — and as you all know — his Craig Reynolds-created campaign narrative is that he is here for the kids.

    This is only marginally a city government issue.  Child Welfare and health issues are the purview of the County.  The City doesn’t financially support Communicare, First Five and a bevy of social welfare organizations–the County does.

    Can a city weigh in on these issues?  Of course.  Should a city with an overflowing plate of other needs be expending bandwith on children’s health?  I don’t think so.

    Once the city has a plan for its crumbling infrastructure, shrinking revenue base, expiring labor contracts, corrupt fire union, underparked downtown, housing scarcity, jobs-housing imbalance, outdated general plan, and lack of a vision for the future — then we can talk about forcing restaurants to serve milk to our youth.

    In the meantime, Dan and Craig need to campaign on their time, not the City Council’s precious time.

     

     

    1. Davis Progressive

      seems like dan has no place to go right now, so i suspect the campaign calculations are just a lot of rhetoric.  more importantly the question should be – is this the right policy not whether the wrong guy will benefit from it

      1. Don Shor

        Or it’s possible that he actually wants to help make a healthier environment for children and thinks this is a good way to go about it. It’s also possible that’s one of the reasons he went into politics in the first place.

  8. Tia Will

    “Is it the right policy ” ?

    This is the key issue. I don’t really see why the source of the policy is of such concern to anyone. What difference does it make whether it would hurt or help the career of any particular politician ?  What difference if they happen to have more than one motive ?

    I know from my interactions with family practitioners, pediatricians, obstetrician gynecologists and public health officials that there is support for measures which would encourage a default to water as the beverage of choice for children. That water is the superior beverage for our health is not disputed. The question seems to be how to get there. There is certainly precedent in our society for protecting children even when their parents do not seem to have the will, knowledge, or capacity to do so. We insist on the use of car seats for infants and children, special speed limits in school zones, helmets when children are bike riding. This is certainly  partially because we care about the well being of children, but also at least in part because we are aware that preventable injuries and illnesses cost the society as a whole in medial costs, decreased productivity, industrial loss from the time the parents need off work to care for an injured child and potentially special needs cost for the child for her entire life. We recognize that this is not in the best interest of either the child or the society and pass laws accordingly. Childhood obesity, Type II diabetes, increased risk of cardiovascular disease while long term rather than instantaneous risks are also extremely costly for both the individual and the society. You can call this “nanny statism” or you can call it economically savvy depending upon you cost / risk analysis of the situation. Either way, there  is probably more than one motive involved when anyone advocates for any position. I fail to see why that might also not apply to our mayor or how it detracts from the benefits of the policy.

  9. Tia Will

    Gunrocik

    • Child Welfare and health issues are the purview of the County.  The City doesn’t financially support Communicare, First Five and a bevy of social welfare organizations–the County does.”

    • Sounds to me like this is something that should change. You may not be aware that the county partners with local cities and municipalities whenever it can. Let’s take a simple analogy. Let’s say that you see your neighbors 3 year old in the street and the parent is nowhere to be seen. Do you shrug your shoulders and leave her there just hoping she won’t get hit or do you bring her to a place of safety while you contact the parent ?  I believe that the care of our children is the responsibility of all of us. For me there is no “it’s not my job” when children are involved.

  10. Gunrocik

    I don’t think any of you understood my point.

    Should the Council be focusing their precious time and energy on an issue where they have very little control or influence?

    Particularly when they have so many other pressing needs?

    Five years from now, when we have roads we can no longer navigate, pools that no longer meet safety standards, a dwindling number of recreation activities for our youth, shuttered public buildings and fewer police officers than fireman — I’m sure the community will be thrilled that we were spending all of our time passing resolutions to ensure that McDonald’s served milk with their Happy  Meals!

     

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