Beverages and Equity
Too many low-income neighborhoods and communities of color in the U.S. are "food deserts" -- places where it's difficult to find retail food outlets that sell nutritious and affordable food and beverages. The food outlets that do exist in these neighborhoods -- mostly convenience stores and bodegas -- don't usually carry healthy beverages. Or if they do, they may charge a higher price for them. Tap water, the best alternative to sugary drinks, is sometimes unsafe to drink in these communities. Add to this the beverage industry's onslaught of marketing, and it is not surprising that low-income residents and people of color tend to consume sugary drinks at higher rates. Given these conditions, state and local policies aimed at reducing the consumption of these empty calorie beverages may therefore have an even greater impact on low-income communities.
We recommend the following:
For policies that restrict the availability and marketing of sugary drinks
1. Low income residents should play a prominent role in developing the policy.
2. Campaigns promoting the policy should work to ensure that healthier beverages, such as water, are available at an equal or lesser price in communities most affected by the policy.
For policies that tax sugary drinks
1.Low-income residents should play a prominent role in developing the tax proposal.
2. The policy should include language to ensure that low-income communities and communities of color benefit from the allocation of tax revenues by designating a substantial portion of the revenues to:
- Improve access to healthy, affordable beverages and foods
- Improve access to parks, recreation programs, and other opportunities for physical activity
- Provide subsidies for fresh fruit and vegetable purchases
- Increase food stamp benefits for fresh fruits and vegetables
- Provide healthy foods and beverages in schools
- Provide health care coverage and increased preventive care
Ensure access to safe, clean, affordable water
For more information on equity and the beverage and food environment, check out the resources and articles below.
5 Questions on Equity and Childhood Obesity. A video by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation featuring Angela Glover Blackwell, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of PolicyLink.
Building Healthy Communities through Equitable Food Access. A community development investment review of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco by Judith Bell and Marion Standish.
Creating Access to Healthy Affordable Food. USDA Agriculture Marketing Service.
Healthy Food, Healthy Communities. Promising Strategies to Improve Access to Fresh, Healthy Food and Transform Communities by PolicyLink.
Sugary Drink FACTS. A study by the Yale Rudd Center which found that black children and teens viewed 80-90% more sugary drink TV advertising than their white peers.