AHA-Philadelphia Celebrate 5 Years of Investments to Community Improvement Programs Thanks to City Beverage Tax

Philadelphia Mayor, Jim Kenney, who spearheaded the tax, engaging with youth
Issue Area
Health Equity
State/Region
Pennsylvania
Written by
Theresa Spencer, American Heart Association
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During the last five years, the positive impacts of the Philadelphia beverage tax have been felt throughout neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Revenue from the tax supports critical community programs including early care and education, community schools and the Rebuild initiative, which is designed to improve local facilities like parks, recreation centers, libraries and pre-kindergarten programs where families can be active together.

“I remain proud of the City of Philadelphia and the efforts of parents, pre-K providers, community school and recreation center advocates, union leaders and community activists, medical and public health professionals, businesses and everyday Philadelphians who all came together to fight for a brighter future for our city’s children and healthier neighborhoods for us all,” said Dwayne Wharton, a community and children’s health advocate based in Philadelphia. “Five years later, I’m heartened that the City of Philadelphia continues its fight against poverty and diet-related diseases. These successes would not be possible without the sugar-sweetened beverage tax.”

The first step toward Philadelphia’s success was on June 16, 2016, when the city council voted 13-4 to tax sweetened beverages in Philadelphia. The tax took effect on January 1, 2017.

As one of the leading organizations advocating for the Philadelphia Beverage Tax, the American Heart Association-Philadelphia rallied its volunteers and created a public campaign in support of the cause and, most importantly, highlighted the critical impact it would have on the community. The tax has not only funded vital programs and services, it has also led to a reduction in sugary drink consumption.

“Since Philadelphia implemented the beverage tax, there have been notable health impacts such as a 38% reduction of sugary drink purchases according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Philadelphians have also reduced their sugary drink consumption by 1.3 billion ounces and counting, enough to fill more than 15 Olympic-sized swimming pools,” explained Jake Zychick, the community advocacy director for the American Heart Association-Philadelphia.

More information about the impact of the Philadelphia Beverage Tax can be found here. Some recent improvements to the Philadelphia community include:

Rebuild Philadelphia

  • 65 facilities with work underway
  • 41 completed projects— playgrounds, recreation centers, parks and libraries  

PHL Pre-K

  • 137 PHLpre-K sites citywide offering 3,300 seats in the 2020-2021 school year, including virtual learning opportunities in response to COVID-19
  • 10,000 children served since January 2017
  • 93% of providers have high-quality ratings in the state’s STARS (Standards, Training/Professional Development, Assistance, Resources and Supports) system

Community Schools

  • 17 Community Schools with 9,400 children enrolled
  • More than 570 students have received city-funded support to improve their regular attendance


The American Heart Association continues to fight to be a relentless force for equitable health care and nutrition so everyone can live longer, healthier lives.

“This victory did not come easy, but it has paved the roadway for other cities to adopt a similar tax,” said Zychick. “Today we say thank you to the volunteers and community partners who advocated to make Philadelphia the first major American city to pass a sweetened beverage tax. Funding from the tax revenue supports investments and programs that the community has deemed important to address health equity.”


Voices for Healthy Kids works with campaigns across the country to reduce sugary drink consumption. Check out our Sugary Drink Toolkit for guidance and resources to help your campaign.  

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