SAN FRANCISCO—San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell and Board of Supervisor Malia Cohen revealed on Wednesday, May 30 that the city will spend $10 million annually in soda tax revenue to address health inequities, with a distinct focus on improving outcomes among low-income communities and communities of color.
According to a press release from the Mayor’s Office, soda consumption has been higher in low-income communities, which have disproportionately high rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. The funding will support health education, physical activity and food access programs and campaigns to raise awareness about the consumption of sugary drinks.
“Whether encouraging more physical activity or promoting healthy eating campaigns, this budget will help provide solutions to the epidemics of obesity and heart disease in our underserved communities,” said Mayor Farrell. “This community-led effort will ensure that our youth and families have healthy and active programs to enjoy.”
“As the sponsor of this law, I am proud to stand with the community and uphold the promise of directing soda tax revenue towards reducing health disparities for people of color and working class people,” said Supervisor Malia Cohen. “These dollars will be invested in creative programming that decrease sugary drink consumption and increase water intake. Most importantly, those spending most on the tax will see a direct reinvestment in their communities towards health education and disease prevention.”
Of the $10 million in additional annual funding, $4.5 million will be directed as grants to community-based organizations serving low-income communities and communities of color, with a focus on preventive health measures. An additional $2.5 million will be disbursed through the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) to support efforts to improve food and water access, and oral health services in schools. This includes better nutrition, student-led efforts to reduce soda consumption and the installation of water stations in the 23 remaining schools that do not have them.
“The San Francisco Unified School District is uniquely positioned to leverage its scale and role to prevent sugar sweetened beverage related diseases, such as obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, and to disrupt and reverse health inequities in our community,” said SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews. “The Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax revenue will increase our capacity to prepare students for learning and to practice healthy habits. As educators, we’re committed to the overall wellbeing of our students. This tax revenue will allow us to expand access to nutritious meals made of quality ingredients and locally grown produce, install more water hydration stations in our schools, increase access to dental care, and establish robust nutrition education and student engagement programs to support healthy choices.”
The funding will help food security through healthy eating vouchers, to be administered by community-based organizations and faith-based organizations. The tax measure will expand peer programming at HOPE SF housing sites in communities impacted by health disparities. It will assist San Francisco’s Peace Parks program, the successful Healthy Retail program and several oral health task forces across the city.
“Sugary beverages pose a major health risk because they increase the risk of chronic illnesses like diabetes, obesity and heart disease and cause tooth decay,” said San Francisco Health Officer Dr. Tomas Aragon. “These products target consumers with promises of happiness that can’t be kept. It is great that San Francisco will be able to support programs and services in health education, physical activity, food access and to raise awareness about the consumption of sugary drinks.”
Mayor Farrell and Supervisor Cohen accepted the recommendations of the Sugary Drinks Distribution Tax Advisory Committee (SDDTAC) on a funding plan for the tax measure. The Committee started meeting in December 2017, and offered data-based recommendations regarding tax expenditures in April 2017.
The committee’s recommendations focused on prevention and direct investments in communities that are hardest hit by chronic disease and are often the target of marketing campaigns from the sugar-sweetened beverage industry. The committee is also tasked with evaluating the effectiveness of the tax-funded programs.
“It’s gratifying to see the result of many years of collective effort by UCSF, UC Berkeley, Stanford and SFDPH scientists, SF policymakers and local health advocates,” said Roberto Vargas, co-chair of the soda tax committee. “Mayor Farrell’s budget proposal strongly supports the recommendations of the SDDTAC, supports evidence-based approaches, and lives up to San Francisco’s commitment to reinvesting these dollars back into the communities most targeted by the soda industry, and most impacted by disease associated with consuming sugary drinks.”
“I think this is a huge win,” said Joi Jackson-Morgan, co-chair of the soda tax committee. “Sugary beverages have a significant impact on our community and now we’re giving families the tools and support to invest in their health.”
In 2016, over 62 percent of San Francisco residents approved the Soda and Sugary Beverages Tax measure, which enforced a tax of one cent per ounce on the distribution of certain sugary beverages in the city.