By now you’ve probably heard almost everything about the proposed Philadelphia Soda Tax from both people that support it and against it. The proposed soda tax is being framed as a way for the city to fund universal Pre K, programs for the parks and recreation department and the libraries.
The long term health benefits of the tax will cause people to make smarter choices instead of reaching for a sugary drink that if consumed consistently (which most people who are oppose to it do anyway) can lead to obesity related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease etc.
Before you go judging me on this post, hear me out. I actually come from a low income background where I consumed soda almost everyday. Growing in the projects in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn there wasn’t any healthy options near by. In fact I had 3 bodegas (2 on the same block) within 2 blocks. When I was thirsty coming home from school I would grab a pepsi, coke or sprite. I remember both my grandmother and mother even buying 12 packs of soda when they went shopping because it was almost always on sale. When you are on food stamps and it only covers so much you have no choice but to purchase the cheapest options which unfortunately was the most unhealthy (this is in the mid 80s-90s, things have changed dramatically since then) food items.
Now don’t get me wrong my grandmother was a great cook. Coming from Puerto Rico she would make the most amazing dishes I’ve ever had in my life with some huge portions. Unfortunately the ingredients that she got from the supermarkets in Brooklyn were vastly different from the food she got in Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico she grew up eating fresh food that was grown directly from my great grandparent’s land. Not to mention she was active because she had to actually get the food from the farm. It wasn’t till she came stateside where she became overweight due because of the processed foods, foods loaded with sodium and sugar. I still believe that it was those unhealthy foods that she developed and passed away from Breast Cancer—but thats a topic for another day.
I was one of the lucky ones in my community though. I realized at the age of 16 that harm that fast food and sugary drinks would cause me long term. That’s when I started to cut back and eventually cut out both.
People want to be healthy as well as a better communities. The soda tax will serve both purposes. If people want to continue to get their soda fix they can but they will just have to pay the extra tax the same way those that choose to continue to buy cigarettes.
At the same time Philadelphian’s should use this opportunity to find resources that will educate them on how to enjoy their favorite foods with healthy alternatives while on a shoestring budget. The soda tax will enable public places to have more of those resources in place in communities that need it the most. I personally hope that some of that revenue generated gets put to use in the school system to educate and expose children as early as pre K to healthy food options. By exposing children to healthy food options as early as possible will encourage their parents to make healthy meals.
Will the soda tax eradicate the obesity epidemic in Philly completely? No! It is a great start though! As a fitness expert as well as someone who came from a low income background I understand both sides. However Philadelphia has a chance to do something special that will not only combat the obesity problem but also improve the quality of life for everyone including our children. In the end of the day don’t we want them to live longer and have a better life for them? I’d say we can live with paying a few extra cents on sugary drinks.