For your health

City to ban soda and junk food, endorse healthy-lifestyle resolution

This week, the city of Sacramento will take a first step toward hopefully getting out of the Coke, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper business.

Councilman Kevin McCarty is leading a charge to remove all junk food and sodas from vending machines on city property. This comes on the heels of a new campaign, Healthy Eating Active Living, or HEAL, that aims to get Sacramentans out of their cars and onto bikes and eating less refined sugar and more fresh fruits and vegetables.

Sacramento is the largest city in California to pass the HEAL resolution.

The councilman says it concerns him that his twin daughters, who’ll turn 3 next month, will be part of the first generation in modern history where life expectancy is less than their parents. So he heeds the call of first lady Michelle Obama, that “all hands need to be on deck,” he says, when it comes to curbing childhood obesity and keeping kids active and athletic.

McCarty plans to introduce the soda-and-sweets ban in the coming weeks.

Sacramento County public health officer Dr. Glennah Trochet first brought up the issue to McCarty a few months back. She and Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, argue that due to the gravity of this health crisis, it is in fact government’s business to help people eat right and stay active.

“More and more governments are saying, ‘No, it’s all of our problem,’” McCarty explains.

But, aside from banning Snickers and Sprite, will the HEAL resolution have teeth?

McCarty concedes that “there’s some symbolism and there’s some substance.” The resolution includes vague references to pedestrian and bicycle master plans, transit villages and infill gardens—projects that will be perennially back-burnered without city funding.

Earlier this year, McCarty proposed a city soda tax, but now he’s cooled on the idea, calling it “premature.”

Meanwhile, a potential statewide soda tax could appear on the 2012 ballot, in addition to a bill making ground in the state Assembly that would tax soda a penny per ounce and generate nearly $2 billion in revenue for anti-childhood-obesity programs.

For now, the councilman envisions donating park and public-space use for free to nonprofits and organizations, which would then put on outdoor activities for kids.

Whatever happens, action is crucial.

“We’re pretty far down there,” says McCarty, of where Sacramentans rate when it comes to healthiest Californians.