Guest Commentary: Davis Leading the Fight against Obesity and Diabetes

Sugary Beverageby Dan Wolk

In 2015, as part of our Healthy Families Initiative, Davis adopted a groundbreaking ordinance making water or milk the default beverage in children’s meals at restaurants.

Its premise was simple: preserve consumer choice while combating, in sugary beverages, one of the leading contributors to childhood obesity.  After all, according to studies, people consuming one or more sugary drinks per day have a 26 percent higher risk of developing diabetes and increases a child’s likelihood of being overweight or obese by 55 percent.

Despite the strength of the beverage industry, the ordinance was adopted unanimously by the City Council and its implementation has been smooth and with the cooperation of restaurants.

Now, Davis’ ordinance is serving as a model for a statewide measure.  Introduced by Senator Bill Monning and sponsored by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, the Latino Coalition for a Health California, Public Health Advocates, and the California State Alliance of YMCAs, SB 1192 would make water or milk the default beverage in children’s meals at restaurants throughout the state.

Davis has been a leader in a number of areas, from bike lanes to environmental sustainability.  To this list we can add this ordinance.  I ask our City Council and all concerned residents do what they can to support SB 1192.  Public health advocates will need our help.

Please join me in supporting SB 1192.

Dan Wolk is a Davis resident and former Mayor of Davis

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Jeff M

    I believe real fruit juice would be a better choice than milk with respect to getting some nutrients into the kids and also as an alternative to their sugar craving that will be difficult to cut-off cold turkey.  A lot of kids cannot tolerate lactose.

    I think French school kids get watered-down wine with their meals.    If red it is also known to have some health benefits.

    And I would prefer education instead of state control to try and combat bad eating habits.  Again, looking to France it is the culture that drives the taste and demand of real food.  But I know that education starts the process for healthy eating.   I have friends with disgusting eating habits caused by their parent’s inability to prepare fresh food that tasted good.

    1. Tia Will

      Jeff M

      Physiologically speaking, neither juice nor milk are particularly good choices. Water is of course the best. Juice reinforces the desire for more “sweetness” ( sugar) in a concentrated from and while far more nutritious than soda, is still a heavy “sugar” load.

      I also prefer education. However, we are already using that approach extensively and it is no contest for the advertisements and inducements to drink sodas provided by their manufacturers. When it came to counteracting the known false claims of cigarette manufacturers and their inducements to get adolescents to start smoking it took many years and a multimodal approach including education, taxes, and gradually tightening social disapproval and societal constraints in order to stop the manufacturers from deliberately enticing new generations of smokers well past the point when their high lethality and lack of any redeeming benefit was known.


        1. Tia Will


          Because smoothies provide a quick sugar load, I do not favor them either. Definitely better than sodas, but definitely inferior to either water as a beverage or whole fruit as a food.

        2. Jeff M

          You don’t get it.  You mix vegetables and fruits into the drink.  We used to do this with our kids when they were young.  Try to get them to eat beets, kale, spinach vs blending it into a smoothy that includes some fruit juice, honey, yogurt etc.   You can make a smoothy that kids will like the taste of but it includes real food.

          I’m sure you know that there are different types of sugar and they all have different qualities that can be good or bad for nutrition.  For example milk includes the sugar molecule lactose.  Many vegetables include high amounts of sugar.  Have you ever had carrot juice?

          Sweet, sour, salty, savory, bitter… these are all qualities that can be expertly balanced using blends of real fruits and vegetables to make something that the kids will actually consume.

          The only challenge is that it would need to be fresh and refrigerated.

        3. Alan Miller

          Yes, JM, exactly.

          I make my own OJ from whole oranges including the rind.  Usually mix in a full bunch of parsley.  Makes a week’s worth.  Almost not sweet, and much healthier than concentrated sweet juice.

          A zillion other healthy combos out there.

          Of course, this takes industrial-grade blenders and lots of labor, versus plopping a bottle/carton down.  And labor has been priced out of the market.

  2. Todd Edelman

    Milk? What kind of milk?

    As part of the most common restaurant meals, what does dairy provide exclusively or in significantly higher amounts? Leaving aside fat and ethical etc. issues of the dairy-industrial complex – typical commercial milk to grass-fed & local? –  is there any advantage over requirements for the food itself that have both the least environmental impact and lack of impacts on lactose intolerance?

    What estimated percentage of children have unknown lactose intolerance issues? Do restaurants commonly provide lactose-free milk, unsweetened kefir, or “milk” made from soy, rice, almond, cashew etc? The bill also supports un-sweetened, flavored-water. Let’s keep in mind the comparative overall water use of filtered water (for our kids mostly from Mt. Shasta and so on, these days), bottled water and milk.

    What other kinds of partly less-sweetened things are common in children’s meals? Do most parents actually order these? Is it cheaper for kids to split an adult meal?

    1. Tia Will


      I am no pediatrician, but I will do the best I can. Worldwide the incidence of lactase deficiency, the usual culprit behind lactose intolerance is highly variable by population being as low as 5% and as high as 90% of the adult population. In the US, the figure I have heard bandied about the most is about 25% of the adult population. This number is hard to confirm because the expression of intolerance by degree of symptoms varies widely and many folks simply self diagnose.

      Restaurants do not typically supply alternative soy or nut milks.

      I may not be current since my children are long since grown, but when I was raising them there were no what I would consider “healthier choices” on children’s menus. The flavorings of choice were sugar, fat and salt, not necessarily in that order. This led to us virtually never ordering off the child’s menu but rather choosing appetizers we all could share or sharing from large plates proceeded by salads. A secondary advantage of this approach is that it encourages children to develop a taste for a broader variety of foods rather than always opting for the usually much more limited “child’s menu” with its bland, greasy, fast food or “comfort food” type selections.

      Of course, there was one downside. My children developed a taste for our more adult choices such as sushi/sashimi at an early age and it ended up costing a bundle to go out…..but sometimes you just have to pay for what you get.

  3. Todd Edelman

    Also do we have a bill requiring DJUSD or other school districts to do everything they can to increase cycling and walking modal share, to provide school buses as an alternative to the parentaxi, to restrict the traffic-intensifying school drop off and pick up, to offer cycling education as a P.E. class – rather than in our great but extra-curricular after school courses (in Davis the Bike Rodeos)?

    1. Tia Will


      We have no such bill of which I am aware. However, our county health department is very cognizant of this problem and does make efforts to work with the various communities to try to encourage alternatives to the parent as chauffeur model so common now. It’s kind of a matter of chipping away at the edges as best I can tell.

      1. Todd Edelman

        I will look into that. Certainly no one from the County has written to the BTSSC to share their ideas about it! 😉

        But what’s the alternative to carpooling in addition to walking and cycling? How many school districts with similar spatial/density configurations and non-geographic catchment have made any substantial progress on the issue without buses for K to 4th or 5th?

        We obviously can’t charge parents more for K to 6’s who don’t attend school in their own neighborhood, but then won’t people complain about paying for a specific parcel tax which they feel does not benefit their child so much? (Obviously less traffic benefits everyone, including kids riding or walking short distances to school…)

    1. Todd Edelman

      money coming from?

      DJUSD has done two surveys/polls this year about interest in additional taxes to pay for teachers and facilities. It’s a shame that they didn’t ask about the lack of bus service, which is WAY more of a problem than it could be since our elementary schools in particular – and e.g. Unitrans would prefer not to carry anyone below 5th grade who is unaccompanied – don’t require geographic catchment.

      My understanding is that DJUSD is not very concerned about buses because cycling modal share is high. Well, it’s the highest in junior high because a large portion of 7 to 9’s can bike themselves, and because the K to 6’s are not necessarily close to their schools. The ironiclusterf*ckering part of this is that it means that a lot of vulnerable cyclists are in the street, sharing it with cars that are used to kids across town.

      I’ve not seen this issue mentioned by any candidate for city council, though it seems clear that candidates who have professional experience in transportation – such as Eric Gudz – would be best equipped to take it to the DJUSD.

      1. Jim Hoch

        “I’ve not seen this issue mentioned by any candidate for city council”

        1) The city council has nothing to do with DJU

        2) I’m pretty deeply involved in local school politics and nobody has expressed a desire for this to me.

        3) I understand that reality is not central to your worldview but have you ever looked at the bicycle parking areas at any of the elementary schools?

        1. Todd Edelman

          1) The city council has nothing to do with DJU

          AH, but they have something to do with the areas in between home and school.

          2) I’m pretty deeply involved in local school politics and nobody has expressed a desire for this to me.

          I remember that one of my first jobs was doing phone surveys for the California Milk Advisory Board. We asked people what they knew about “riboflavin”. Many had never heard of it.

          3) I understand that reality is not central to your worldview but have you ever looked at the bicycle parking areas at any of the elementary schools?

          I am fortunate to not be around schools too often around 8am, so my worldview has not made me blasé about the traffic, a sad, stinky noisy joke. Many places have banned drop offs, so that e.g. kids can have more freedom to ride bikes or walk. Some call this lack of freedom.

    1. Jim Hoch

      I would be interested in spending more money on schools but would like to see some benefit. Buses sound like the least useful idea I have ever heard.

      1. Todd Edelman

        One bus can take carry as many kids as 50 cars, assuming 75 person capacity on a bus and and average of 1.5 kids per car. That bus can also be used to safely carry kids to out of district sports and other trips.

        I am not sure how all the logistics would work, because kids travel all over town, and it’s not clear how far they will be required to walk to their bus stop.

        But there would be huge differences in traffic congestion before and after school.

        1. Howard P

          Like a stopped clock (right twice a day), you do touch a good point… Davis did have school buses before prop 13…

          Here’s how I see it…

          First choice = walk or bike

          Second choice = bus… fewer ‘trips’, less total GHG emissions (assuming a modern bus), and with fewer MV trips to the site, which improves likelihood of First Choice

          Last choice = current practice, that works to discourage the other two choices…


          1. David Greenwald

            Why does Davis need school buses when the vast majority of students live within half a mile of a school and the students that have intradistrict transfers are not clustered enough to take advantage of school buses?

        2. Howard P

          Todd… let me help educate you (friendly mode)… rule of thumb for adults, from home to bus stop, max desireable = 1/4 mile; students, about half that (little less, ~ 600 feet…)…

          “Special programs” complicate the bus option…

        3. Howard P

          Jim… I’ve been part of video recordation of traffic at L & Drexel at school arrival/departure times (Holmes)… it is a “mess”… not a myth… not a “delusion” …the rest of the day, no problem at all…

        4. Howard P

          David… special programs (AIM, Spanish Immesion, etc,) means many in-district kids live more than 1/2 mile from their school… and there are no Jr Highs or HS south of I-80… want to rethink your question?

          Besides, please recall I did not say buses were #1 choice…

          Also be aware that a former school board member (Susan L) INSISTED that Olive Drive kids not only should they have bus access to Montgomery, but that there be bus turnouts for Unitrans to serve them… one of the main reasons for the Unitrans W line…

          Please think…

          1. Don Shor

            I was told a long time ago that the bus service was discontinued because there was basically insufficient demand for it. So before any consideration is given to reinstating it, the parents of the district should be surveyed. I think the older kids find Unitrans sufficient if they don’t happen to drive or bike. Evidently parents of younger kids prefer to drive them in many cases. I’d be surprised if there’s sufficient ridership to warrant the expense, which would not be insignificant. I expect taxpayers and parents would prefer that scarce tax dollars go to higher priorities.

          2. David Greenwald

            Here’s an example of what I’m saying, Howard. My daughter goes to Montgomery even though our neighborhood school is Pioneer. The problem is, there aren’t other students around us going to Montgomery, so how would a bus work?

        5. Todd Edelman

          Questions for everyone, with parents an obvious focus of certain questions (with my educated guesses):

          1) Is a huge amount or the majority of traffic on local streets adjacent to elementary schools in the morning and early afternoon on non-summer weekdays caused by car trips to and from these schools, with the majority of these vehicles carrying one child in addition to the driver? (Yes.)

          2) Is car traffic on local, shared streets bad in pollution effects (gas, particles, noise) and risky to vulnerable users, such as child riding bikes or walking? (Well, everything is relative…)

          2a) OK, would you like to see these things reduced if it was affordable and convenient to do so? (Reasonable people will say yes.)

          3) Would you support the City of Davis paying for a study to see how these things could be reduced? (I am not sure how much this would cost, so…)

          4) IF the study shows that a school bus program limited to certain ages and locations of students would significantly reduced the aforementioned, what would be the age and distance thresholds for priority? (At least 1/2 to 1 mile; 6th grade and under).

          5) IF the study shows that restrictions on drop off and pick ups would significantly increase safety around schools, would you support restrictions? (Reasonable people will say yes…)

          6) If the study shows that a lot of car trips that start with a journey to school and end with the commute to work could be replaced by options such as child-carrying cargo bikes or trailers which would have secure parking at Davis Depot or other park & ride locations, would you both welcome support from the City and invest some $$$ on your own? (Yes, after all I would be saving time or at least money on driving…)

          7) Would you support a parcel tax that a) Adds a Davis-focused fleet to an existing school bus system such as Woodland’s (partly in order to save on double administration), b) Prioritizes passengers as described above, c) Pays for necessary traffic calming measures not covered by other projects, d) Pays for bike parking as described above, e) Subsidizes leases on electric-assist, child carrying cargo bikes (with rain covers) for parents whose children are further than walking-distance from school?

        6. Howard P


          To be clear, as others have been, [but hasn’t seemed to “sink in”]:

          The city has no control over DJUSD… we tell you three (or more) times…

          So, I reject your items 3) and 7) unequivocably…

        7. Todd Edelman

          The city has no control over DJUSD?

          It would be lazy to call this a lazy argument. Howard P(upil), you’ve said how the streets near schools are a mess at school-commute hours: Davis (and county) citizens bringing younger citizens across Davis-controlled land and streets and intersections and air, only crossing into the DJUSD-zone at the curb in front of their school. And let’s keep in mind that part of the reason a lot of kids bike to school is because of City policy on cycling.  And the local Safe Routes to School program is a city program (out of the City Manager’s office); it’s City staff who get the grants for it.

          We do so much to make schools in Davis possible. If the existing board – and candidates, one of whom told me the drop off thing is definitely a concern – and citizens and parents at board meetings etc. cannot persuade the DJUSD to start a plan to at least look into a bus program, we will need to take stronger measures to protect our City.

  4. Tia Will


    You don’t get it”

    I totally do get it. Although I never did children’s dietary counseling, I did provide information for pregnant and non pregnant women for many years. I was aware that you were referring to a vegetable and fruit blend smoothie. I still feel that the whole food is a superior source of nutrients than is a blended drink even if the “sweetening” comes in the form of honey. I strongly believe that water is the best beverage and foods are best eaten whole. Very young children have been shown repeatedly to choose a well balanced diet if provided with a large variety of foods and allowed to “graze”.  I am opposed to “masking” vegetables with other flavors that we assume that children will like better instead of allowing and encouraging them to eat as many different foods as possible thus developing a more mature palate.

    1. Jeff M

      When you have a child that has been patterned to drink sugary sodas, you will not win that battle.  That was the basis for this idea.  It was more about replacing the sugary soda with something that is nutritious.

      However, I am 100% onboard with feeding kids whole foods.

      I think one problem we have is that the average person is a terrible cook and cannot prepare whole food to be appetizing.  I believe we should be teaching culinary arts in the grade schools.  The parents of these kids are a lost cause and they are corrupting the kids to eat like them.   I know… I have friends in that boat and have only made moderate progress over many years of trying to teach them all how to prepare and enjoy fresh whole foods.

      We brainwash these kids to freak out when their parents don’t recycle or they smoke etc.   We can certainly do the same with food… teaching the kids what good eating habits are so they can freak out at their parents when their parents eat and offer junk.

      Check this out…

      1. Alan Miller

        Yes, JM, exactly.

        I make my own OJ from whole oranges including the rind.  Usually mix in a full bunch of parsley.  Makes a week’s worth.  Almost not sweet, and much healthier than concentrated sweet juice.

        A zillion other healthy combos out there.

        Of course, this takes industrial-grade blenders and lots of labor, versus plopping a bottle/carton down.  And labor has been priced out of the market.

      2. Mark West

        A large portion of the benefit that comes from eating whole fruits and vegetables is due to the fiber (both soluble and insoluble) that is ingested. Once you turn your ‘whole food’ into a juice you have destroyed or removed most of that fiber and consequently are consuming something more on par with flavored sugar water or soda. Eat whole foods, don’t drink them.

        1. Mark West

          “Some ‘juices’ include the fiber”

          Typically, there is greater than an order of magnitude difference between the fiber content in the fruit and that in the juice. Technically you are correct, benefit-wise, not so much. Juice, even with pulp, is little more than flavored sugar water.

        1. Jim Hoch

          You can see the candidates in person and get a pretty good idea of the BMI of each. They vary greatly though the average is not as high as some other races.

        2. Howard P

          Jim.. you have no idea of how BMI is calculated, right?  “Visual” doesn’t do it at all…

          You trivialize my honest question as to disclosing BMI’s… not appreciated… I was not sniping nor “trolling”… no matter what you or David believe…

        3. Alan Miller

          > You can see the candidates in person and get a pretty good idea of the BMI of each.

          “Fat profiling” City Council candidates . . . Oy Vey!

          You can see commenters on the Vanguard and get a pretty good idea of the quality of character of each.

    1. Howard P

      The topic is ‘Davis leading the fight against obesity’… why not disclose?

      Not saying ‘litmus test’… if the new CC continues the “fight”, I can see where it might be pertinent…

      Alternatively, where do the CC candidates stand on current/future efforts on ‘the fight against obesity”? Perhaps I should have worded it that way… but did not occur to me to do so…

  5. Tia Will


    where do the CC candidates stand on current/future efforts on ‘the fight against obesity”

    I agree with the revised wording. I would very much like to hear the candidates views on means to improve health and wellness in our community. Too often I have heard the opinion that health and wellness is the responsibility of the county without any apparent awareness that the City of Davis is one major component of the county, has the university where much research is done and has the capacity to be a leader in the field of health and wellness.

    1. Howard P

      Consider it revised…

      I can see those who are lean, concerned about those factors that lead to others becoming obese… I also see those who are obese, concerned about children/other who might become obese, perhaps wishing effective efforts had been made when they were children…

      Obesity is a health, and an economic threat, to be sure… on the economic side, risks associated with obesity drives statistical stuff insurance companies use to set rates… private or public insurance… paid by individuals, private companies, and/or public agencies… AND, if no insurance, the public at large (no, not a “swipe”) takes the hit for uninsured treatment of medical issues compounded and/or caused by obesity.

      Health-care costs… private, employer (private or public), Medical, Medicare, retiree medical… would be a lot less if folk were not obese…

      Yet, saying that, seems like some think I’m “fat-shaming”… never my intent… might be that some thought I have “implicit bias”… don’t believe I do, but I’m ‘lean’… am actually looking to gain 10-20 lbs (adding muscle mass as well as ‘insulation’), which would be my “healthy weight”…

      So, going to get myself lunch…


  6. Howard P

    All… apparently my question, re: BMI, meant fairly (see my 1:52 post, earlier) has been mis-construed, and has taken on a mini-life of its own…

    I apologize for my clumsy wording when I brought it up…

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