span style="letter-spacing: -0.3px">There was a soon-to-be mother of two, a middle school teacher and a journalist sitting around a kitchen table in a Manhattan apartment. Sound like the start to a bad joke? It could be, but the matter we were discussing was nothing to laugh about. (I’m the journalist and the other two women at the table are my childhood friends.) As many New Yorkers have been voicing concerns, or praise, over the proposed big soda ban, the topic got the three of us debating the issue.
Interestingly, as my friends said they thought the idea of putting a ban on soda sales was unfair, they agreed that something has to be done about the amount of sugar or fatty foods people are consuming. While something does have to change with regard to the obesity epidemic that has happened in this country, preventing people from purchasing specific products isn’t that something.
The scenario of someone buying two 16-ounce beverages gets brought up, as does the ability for a consumer to just refill his or her cup at many fast food chains in the city for no additional cost. “The Mother’s” husband chimes in saying that it’s about portion control. If someone puts a large plate of food in front of him, he’ll eat it all, but if a smaller plate of food is presented and he takes a step away from the table after eating, he’s satisfied. Point taken. But do we need a law to regulate portion control?
The discussion then turned to schools, as “The Mother” is now looking at schools in Manhattan for her daughter, and the restrictions on selling sugary drinks and fatty foods in those schools. While that may or may not be a good thing, I reminded them that when we were growing up, we had access to soft drinks in vending machines and sugared teas and French fries and pizza and chocolate chip cookies, among other things, in our school cafeteria. None of us are obese or overweight and neither were our classmates. What goes into a Coke or Pepsi or Snapple hasn’t changed (other than adding low-sugar, low-calorie options), so what has?
“The Teacher,” who teaches middle school at a public school in Brooklyn told us that her school has no vending machines, no health class and no after school sports due to lack of funding in many cases.
Funding is where our discussion came to a halt. Why isn’t money being spent on educational programs in schools on health and wellness? Why aren’t there programs for families to help educate them on portion control? Instead of being reactive and putting a ban on a single group of items, why not be proactive and get back to the fundamentals of what being healthy means?
Today we read about universities and government offices banning the sale of bottled water as a cost-cutting initiative as well as an effort to be environmentally friendly or responsible. PET is 100 percent recyclable and if we drink bottled water, we should be responsible for recycling it. Again, the effort here should be to invest in recycling programs and education, not putting a ban on an inexpensive alternative to any beverage with sugar.
There is no easy fix. This month i>Beverage World takes a closer look at big soda ban in NY as our cover story feature; see page 40.