Voices for Healthy Kids
March 16, 2017
The Southern California city of Perris, California, is growing rapidly. The population skyrocketed from just over 36,000 residents in 2000 to an estimated 74,971 residents in 2015. It’s easy to imagine that the Perris City Council has had plenty of important work to focus on. The City Council has a history of supporting health and wellbeing for its residents, including passing resolutions to promote healthier lifestyles and communities. They established Live Well Perris, an ongoing community campaign educating residents on everything from gardening to diabetes and organizing group hikes and community runs.
About 44 percent of children in Perris are at an unhealthy weight, putting them at risk for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Almost half (47 percent) of children in Riverside County drink one or more sugary drinks per day. Across California, Latino youth consume more sugary drinks per day (48%), significantly higher than among whites (33%). The city council heard testimony last month from residents supporting the change to restaurant kid’s meal menus to help reduce sugary drink consumption across their community, where 74 percent of residents identify as Hispanic. Members of a local coalition—including the local Boys and Girls Club of Perris, Public Health Advocates and private citizens—advocated for the ordinance and testified on the impact of sugary drinks in their community.
On March 14, 2017, the city council voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance that adds a chapter to their municipal code ‘establishing default beverages offered in children’s meals’ as healthy options. Their focus on sugary drinks is one of several efforts to address kids’ health issues.
“Perris, California is now a national leader in encouraging parents and young children to choose health over sugary drinks. As only the third city in our nation to pass a strong ordinance requiring restaurants to only advertise healthier beverage choices on their kids’ menus, this city is standing up for kids’ health.” said Jill Birnbaum, executive director of Voices for Healthy Kids. The American Heart Association recommends children ages 2-18 have no more than one sugary drink per week. However, kids today are consuming as much as ten times that amount.
The new ordinance requires restaurants that have a kids’ menu or combination children’s meals to automatically include water, milk or 100% juice instead of sugary drinks. Although it does not prohibit customers from requesting and purchasing other beverages for children, however, some studies have shown similar initiatives decreased sugary drink purchases. This follows national trends from several chain restaurants, including Subway, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Dairy Queen, IHOP, Applebee’s and Jack in the Box that only advertise healthy beverages on their children’s menus. Cities across the country are looking at similar ordinances to ensure all local restaurants are offering better beverages to kids.