The Richmond Soda Tax Proposal

The Richmond Soda Tax Proposal

Thu 25 Oct 2012

Story by Shane Valentine

If I told you voting YES on Measure N on November 6th could teach every single 3rd grader in Richmond, CA how to swim for free, would you support it?

And if I told you that you could still drink soda but it would cost you 1 penny more per ounce(16-cents more for a 16 oz can of soda) which in turn would fund more sports fields in Richmond, would you vote for it? What if it meant that you and your family could take free cooking lessons or create a garden at your local school?

On November 6th, voters in Richmond, CA will decide whether to pass a ‘penny-per-ounce’ tax on sugar-sweetened drinks. The proposal is one of two high-visibility soda tax campaigns in California that seek to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks and raise revenue to improve public health. The other citywide proposal is in El Monte, Southern California, and will also be voted on this Election Day.

The goal of the Richmond ballot initiative is to stem the tide of the alarming obesity epidemic and help its citizens take back some control.

Revenue generated from the soda tax will be used to implement a variety of local programs to increase healthy eating and/or promote physical activity. Richmond, CA – a primarily African-American community in the East San Francisco Bay area, has a daunting task ahead. No one knows this better than Dr. Jeff Ritterman, local resident, current Richmond City Councilman and retired cardiologist, who has treated many of its residents. He has seen the devastating effects that sugar has on the body, especially sugar in liquid form: soda and sugar sweetened beverages like chocolate milk.

Dr. Ritterman recently told me that, “Fully one third (33%) of Richmond's African- American and Latino students are obese AND an additional 20% are overweight in each group.” These numbers are staggering! “Without a successful intervention many of these children will die prematurely of diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and cancer, all of which are linked to their intake of sodas. New medical science shows that one soda a day increases your risk of a heart attack by 20%!”

See more from Dr Ritterman in this ‘Dunk the Junk and Yes on N’ video, and find out more on the effects of sugar in The Real Bears.

Let me remind you, this is not just a Richmond issue. Nor is it a low-income, Latino, or African American issue. No one is immune from this. National statistics show that a child born after the year 2000 has a 1 in 3 chance of contracting Type 2 Diabetes and if he/she is African-American or Latino it increases to 1 in 2. Type 2 Diabetes used to be called “Adult Onset Diabetes” but sadly, this is not the case anymore as children as young as 7 are now suffering from this illness.

You might say, “Well, given what you just laid out, this is an easy win”. Not so fast.

While the Vote Yes on N camp has raised about $30,000 in support of the campaign, “Big Soda” has pumped over $2 million dollars into the underserved community of Richmond to campaign against it. This is one tough uphill battle!

But all is not lost, there is still time. Americans LOVE the underdog, especially an underdog who is scrappy and willing to do whatever it takes. We love the story of David vs. Goliath, Rocky Balboa, and Rudy- and right here in Oakland we watched the A’s win the American League West against all odds.

So if you live in Richmond, show up on November 6th and vote Yes on N so that every 3rd grader can learn how to swim, any family can learn how to cook and every school in Richmond can have a garden! (Just to name a few!)

Learn more about this initiative and if you can, contribute to help it along.

Together we can take a stand and make a difference. Let’s make history on November 6th! The kids in Richmond are counting on us, and if we can make this happen it will inspire similar changes all around the country.

About the author: Shane Valentine, Food Revolution San Francisco Bay Area Ambassador, Author “The Baby Cuisine Cookbook”, Speaker, Activist, Chef Instructor, and most importantly Father of 3.


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