February 19, 2014

By Dr. Jeff Ritterman, SF Bay Area PSR Vice President

More than 250 people came to a spirited event in the Bayview neighborhood February 1 to kick off San Francisco’s soda tax campaign. Monica Mendoza from The Bigger Picture opened the event with a powerful spoken word piece (see her moving video here)

Four members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors spoke at the event, which took place a few days before they introduced the soda tax measure. Malia Cohn welcomed the crowd and talked about the link between soda, obesity and diabetes as a life and death issue. She got the crowd excited about the possibility that something can be done in San Francisco. Scott Weiner presented the soda tax campaigns as following in the footsteps of public health tobacco campaigns. Eric Mar shared the tactics that “Big Soda” uses to defeat measures like a tax on sugary drinks. David Chiu elaborated on the importance of community resources to fight the increase in obesity. The Supervisors also talked about what the revenue from a soda tax will be used for in San Francisco.

Pastor Arelious Walker from the Bayview shared how his neighborhood is particularly affected with diabetes and heart disease, and how urgently action is needed. A community member with Type 2 diabetes discussed the personal costs associated with living in a neighborhood with limited access to good food and beverages.

SF Bay Area PSR Board member Dr. Tom Newman and eight doctors from the UCSF Department of Pediatrics attended as well. Dr. Newman said, “Pediatricians are on the front lines, where we are seeing the current epidemic of obesity and diabetes in children first-hand.  It was great to see so many of our UCSF pediatric residents and faculty turn out to help San Francisco’s kids.”

One highlight for me was seeing the excitement of what we started in Richmond blossoming into a beautiful community-wide event with people working together for the health of San Francisco’s children. It was gratifying to be there with the Shape Up coalition, which has been educating people in San Francisco on the adverse health impacts of sugary drinks. Their hard work had clearly moved things forward. I felt part of a bigger movement.

Listen to The Guardian’s interview with Dr. Ritterman.