BEST – Berkeley Evaluation of Soda Tax

This project seeks to evaluate the impact of the nation’s first significant tax on sugary beverages, passed in Berkeley, California in November 2014. In collaboration with the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill’s Global Food Research Program, SRG is evaluating if the tax has impacted sugar-sweetened beverage prices, sales, and consumption in Berkeley, This study uses a variety of methods, including a population-based telephone survey collecting 24-hour beverage recall as well as store-based research on prices and sales, to assess the impact of the tax.

Dr. Robert Savio, Chief of Pediatrics at Highland General Hospital, Alameda CountyÕs public hospital in the heart of Oakland, has helped spearhead a year-long campaign to transform the hospitalÕs food environment. Dr.Savio sees hundreds of young patients who are obese and face a high risk for diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. ÒSitting in the waiting room, kids would see these snack carts come through loaded with candy and Cheetos. I call them Ôdiabetes cartsÕ!Ó he says. ÒTo me itÕs the equivalent of passing out cigarettes in a cancer ward.Ó So Dr. Savio worked with hospital staff to get fresh seasonal produce boxes delivered weekly from a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) cooperative. With a $5,000 grant from the hospitalÕs Physician Foundation and support from The California Endowment-funded Healthy Eating, Active Communities (HEAC) initiative, Highland Hospital partnered with West OaklandÕs Peoples Grocery to deliver a truckload of produce to the hospital every week. Staff members sign up in advance, paying $25 per box, in turn subsidizing free or reduced-price produce boxes for low-income patientsÕ families. ÒIn an area with dozens of liquor stores and no grocery stores, even one box of fresh produce makes a real difference,Ó says Dr. Savio. Dr. Savio also convinced the gift shop to agree not to sell candy anymore and the organization of hospital volunteers in charge of snack carts to offer healthier choices such as nuts, fresh fruit, and baked rather than fried potato chips.

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