Today almost one-third of children in the United States are obese or overweight. Many studies have demonstrated a link between obesity and the consumption of sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). Many public health advocates see cutting down on the excessive consumption of SSBs as a clear obesity prevention policy strategy.
As such, ChangeLab Solutions has created a collection of resources for advocates and policy makers who want to address this issue. We have the resources you need for developing regulatory policies to address the availability of SSBs for children in your community. If you are unable to find what you are looking for here, you can contact us directly for legal and policy technical assistance.
Where to start?
A common question from public health professionals around the country is “Where do we start?” ChangeLab Solutions has developed a Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Playbook that outlines 10 strategies for communities and states to consider to reduce SSB consumption to improve health. In general, communities and states begin with public education campaigns and work their way up to restrictions on the availability of SSBs. A collection of strategies, rather than a single strategy, will more effectively create environments that promote health.
The 10 strategies outlined in the Playbook include:
- Launch public awareness campaign (show)Public awareness campaigns are classic health education tools that teach the public about the risks of SSB overconsumption and encourage people to reduce consumption. Anti-smoking campaigns have paved the way, using public awareness to reduce harmful behaviors; these have been particularly effective when paired with supportive policies. The Yale Rudd Center maintains a list of links to healthy beverage campaigns across the U.S.
- Limit SSBs on government property (show)Governments can limit access to SSBs on public property. The simplest approach is a healthy vending policy, which establishes nutritional standards for products sold in vending machines. The broadest approach is a healthy procurement policy that covers all beverages purchased with public funds, whether they are served in vending machines, meetings, or public facilities like jails. ChangeLab Solutions has a range of healthy procurement policies, including a model healthy beverage vending contract and a guide to understanding government procurement.
- Limit SSBs in workplaces (private sector) (show)Private sector companies and organizations can limit access to SSBs in vending machines, cafeterias, and meetings, either as stand-alone policies or as part of broader employee wellness efforts. Hospitals, in particular, have been early adopters of these policies in many communities. The Boston Public Health Commission has a guide to improving nutrition in the workplace through organizational policies that reduce SSB consumption.
- Restrict sales of SSBs on and near school grounds (show)Federal law establishes nutrition standards for school meals and other foods sold on school campuses in districts that participate in the National School Lunch Program. Districts or states can prohibit all SSBs from being sold on school grounds. Schools should also consider how to improve students’ access to free water throughout the school day. In addition, students’ easy access to fast food undermines schools’ efforts to provide nutritious food and a healthy school environment.
Communities can consider prohibiting fast food restaurants and mobile food vendors (both of which can be sources of SSBs) from locating near schools. This long-term zoning strategy will help maintain a healthy environment around schools. ChangeLab Solutions has model policies to address SSBs in district wellness policies, regulate where SSBs may be sold, set district standards for vending machines, promote free water access, and limit fast food and mobile vending around schools.
- Prohibit SSBs in childcare and afterschool programs (show)States and some localities can restrict the availability of SSBs in childcare centers, as part of their power to license and regulate these centers. School districts and states can also establish standards for afterschool programs operating on school grounds. The Harvard School of Public Health has developed guidelines for nutrition in childcare settings.
- Restrict SSB marketing in schools (show)Schools have broad authority to control commercial messages on their campuses. If state law permits, the school district can approve a districtwide policy that restricts advertising on campus, bans the advertising of all foods or beverages on campus, or bans the advertising of those foods and beverages that the district does not allow to be sold on campus. ChangeLab Solutions has model school district policies restricting food and beverage advertising and other resources to support this work.
- Eliminate SSBs from kids’ meals (show)Most kids’ meals at popular chain restaurants have too many calories and too much fat, sugar, and sodium, despite widespread attention to the childhood obesity epidemic. Local and state governments can establish standards for kids’ meals that prohibit SSBs from being served with the meals. ChangeLab Solutions has a model ordinance that establishes standards for kids’ meals served with toys. This ordinance can be modified to apply to all kids’ meals, regardless of whether a toy is offered. Also see our Model Ordinance Regulating Sales of SSBs, which includes options to reduce the availability of sugar sweetened beverages with kids' meals.
- License SSB retailers (show)In many communities, certain types of businesses require a special license, including cosmetologists, tobacco retailers, and restaurants. In these cases, governments have determined that these businesses need to follow specific standards of operation, for public health or other reasons. Nutrition advocates are now looking at licensing as a tool for increasing access to healthy food.
By licensing retailers that sell SSBs, governments could require these stores to limit the number of SSBs they carry relative to healthy beverages, to restrict portion sizes, or to set a minimum price. ChangeLab Solutions has developed a model ordinance regulating where SSBs may be sold, a model ordinance regulating how SSBs can be sold, and a model healthy food retailer licensing ordinance, which can be adapted to place restrictions on SSBs sales and encourage healthy food and beverage sales.
- Tax SSBs (show)Taxes can raise the price of SSBs relative to healthier options. Tobacco taxes have been highly effective at reducing smoking rates, particularly among younger people. SSB taxes can benefit the community when the tax revenue is earmarked for obesity prevention, oral health, and other public health initiatives. ChangeLab Solutions has developed model state SSB tax legislation and a model local resolution supporting a statewide excise tax or regulatory fee. ChangeLab Solutions has also developed a model local SSB tax ordinance for California cities and counties, which can be adapted for local jurisdictions across the country.
- Limit SSB portion sizes (show)Portion sizes for most packaged and restaurant foods, including SSBs, have increased dramatically over the past several decades. Portion size restrictions limit the maximum size of single-serving SSBs. Such policies aim to change people¹s ideas about what size drink is a 'normal' amount to consume in a single sitting. These policies can also limit volume discounts that reward consumers who purchase very large individual servings. ChangeLab Solutions developed a model policy that allows local governments to limit SSB portion sizes to 16 ounces.
Warning Labels and Other Emerging Strategies (show)
Public opinion polling suggests that Americans would like more information about the foods and beverages they eat and drink. Requiring a safety warning on SSB containers and packaging is one way to educate consumers about the health risks of consuming SSBs and help them make informed choices. ChangeLab Solutions has developed model state legislation requiring a safety warning on SSB containers and packaging.
There are a variety of other potential strategies to reduce the prevalence of SSBs in stores and restaurants, where SSBs are ubiquitous, extremely cheap, and available in massive portion sizes. ChangeLab Solutions has developed a model ordinance that provides local governments a range of options for regulating retail sales of SSBs, including pricing regulations, options to increase the availability and attractiveness of water, and regulations designed to reduce sales of SSBs with children’s meals.