Too often I have overheard an adult say to a child, “If you behave, I will reward you with a cola.”
We are faced today with public health crises made worse by overconsumption of sugary drinks — Type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, and heart disease. Seattle’s new tax on sugary drinks begins in January, and we should all see it as an opportunity for positive change for the health of our kids and local families.
The sugary drinks tax will cost us a little more if we choose to make the purchase and/or to enjoy it in moderation. No one likes taxation, but this tax will bridge educational and resources gaps, especially to the underserved communities. The new fund adds an overall value to our communities and to future generations.
As much as $15 million in revenue will be generated to fund services that help Seattle families afford more nutritious foods and prime our children for success by improving academic achievements. Cleveland High School, for example, will receive funding to serve more students with rigorous and culturally relevant learning experiences. Another example is the 13th Year Promise Scholarship at South Seattle College, which covers one year of tuition for eligible students and increases their chances of achieving a college degree.
Food insecurity is a real struggle for many of our local families. Revenue from Seattle’s sugary drinks tax will also support local food banks and the innovative Fresh Bucks program. Fresh Bucks provides food assistance by giving vouchers that can be used to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. This year, the program will expand to families beyond those on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or ‘food stamps’) and add to the number of retail locations and farmers markets, where Fresh Bucks can be used to purchase food.
Communities that have implemented a sugary drinks tax, including Berkeley, Calif. and Mexico, found that when you increase the price of sweetened drinks, more people will choose a healthier option, such as water.
Change is not easy. But change is necessary for a better tomorrow. I hope you will “pause to think before you act” on sugary drinks.
— Nancy Lee