Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why I oppose toys in fast food (and why you should)

When I directed City Year in San Jose, we called this a "ripple", as in, the waves that radiate out from a rock dropped in a pond that get bigger, and bigger, and bigger.

The alert reader will remember my wacky, mixed-up support for Ken Yeager's new law passed on April 25. Ken is the President of the Board of Supervisors for Santa Clara County, where it is now illegal to sell fast food meals with toys inside. This made national news, you'll recall.

Fast forward to today.

I'm as supportive of the law as I was when it passed, but to offer equal time, here is an opposing viewpoint that mirrors the opinion of many in our community and others. I support the ban, which actually affects very few fast food restaurants in the county (and NO McDonalds), and I'll share my opinion by paraphrasing what I said publicly when the law was being debated:

"President Yeager, members of the board, when I first heard about this proposed ordinance I thought 'come on...surely local government could better spend its time on the budget, or on public safety.' Public safety? Well, that got me thinking.

"And I remembered that as a 17-year-old freshman at San Jose State University, in 1985, it was common practice for tobacco companies to give away their products free in front of the student union. By the time I graduated, in 1989, they weren't there anymore. Clearly, some policy decision had been made, changing the behavior.

"But policy can change more than behavior; it can change culture and attitude. If those same tobacco companies showed up tomorrow and started giving out 'free samples', I bet the community would be outraged, just as you would be if someone walked into these chambers with a lit cigarette. People would go nuts, yet thirty years ago it was commonplace.

"That's what's at stake here. Kids want the toy, they bug mom and dad for the fast food, and our childhood obesity epidemic is further fuelled. This really is a public health issue, and a seemingly small policy change can - and I think will - ultimately change culture and attitude...and we'll look back on the time when fast food companies lured kids with toys to their meals loaded with sugar, salt and fat, and wonder what we were thinking."

The law passed that morning, national media went ballistic...and here's the punchline (which you already know if you clicked the link above): San Francisco City and County is now proposing a similar ordinance!

So that's the "ripple". I hope it spreads, and believe it will. I welcome all thoughtful responses, as always.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

...and THIS is what collaboration looks like!

It's ground-breaking - as in, it's never happned before, and it's happening here in Silicon Valley. Funny...that happens a lot here.

But usually that means it's happening in the tech sector. Probably by Apple. What if it happened for the benefit of the poorest segment of our population who rely on Second Harvest Food Bank to feed their families, and on Valley Medical Center to keep them healthy?

See where this is going? Click here - you'll be inspired I promise. A Huge thanks to Pat Morino at Citizen Blog for the publicity!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Saying goodbye to my DIET soda?

Yesterday was it. I'm quitting Diet Pepsi.

I'm doing this in support of our "Soda Free Summer" campaign, and also in light of some new information about what sweet sodas actually do to you...and by "you", I mean "me."

First, you may have heard recently on the news about Santa Clara County's ongoing effort to convince more families to go soda-free this summer. What you may not know is that the VMC Foundation is the fiscal agent of this campaign, working with Kaiser, our public health department and the Bay Area Nutrition and Physical Activity Collaborative.

The plan is simple: Educate folks about how sodas fuel the raging childhood obesity epidemic, can lead to diabetes and oh-by-the-way, have no nutritional value. A 20-oz bottle of Coke has 17 teaspoons of sugar! As Santa Clara County Board President Ken Yeager said on the news earlier this week, "It's like opening your mouth and spooning in 17 teaspoons of sugar. Nobody in their right mind is going to do that."

No, of course they wouldn't (but they do). "But Chris," I hear you saying, "You said you were giving up DIET sodas...they have no calories and no sugar!"

A Fair point. HOWEVER...it turns out that diet sodas have their own problems, beyond not really knowing what the artificial sweeteners do long-term. "When you drink that much ultra-sweet soda," explains Dr. Rami Keisari, VMC pediatrician, "it seems your body gets used to and craves more sweets...and not just desserts, but also starches. They can make it very hard to lose weight."

Now THAT is a problem I understand! And I know it's true for me - I practically live on carbohydrates, and I can't seem to stop.

So I'm putting down the diet sodas, which I've guzzled since High School. I'll let you know if it helps me lose weight, and if you care to come along with me on this journey, let me know if it works for you. Together, let's make it a SODA-FREE SUMMER!