After direction from the city council at the March 6 study session meeting, Northglenn city staff is drafting an ordinance to require restaurants with bundled kid’s meals to advertise a healthy beverage option.
The item, presented by the Adams County Health Department and the Healthy Beverage Partnership, would penalize businesses that do not comply.
The idea does not have the full support from staff, the agenda noted.
Natalee Salcedo, Adams County Health Department community health promotion manager, said the ordinance would not prohibit businesses from selling sugary drinks, but does prohibit targeted marketing to children and their guardians.
It would make water, milk or a non-dairy substitute as the default option for kids meals, with a sugary drink available upon request.
“Research shows that the option listed on a menu is chosen 66% of the time,” Salcedo said.
Adams County Health Department would assume all costs, education and compliance assistance if it passes.
“It’s about making the healthy choice the easy choice without taking away any choice,” Salcedo said.
Salcedo said that targeted marketing from the sugar-sweetened beverage industry disproportionately targets communities of color. Black teens see 331 ads for sugary drinks per year compared to white teens who see 145 ads per year.
In 2018, companies spent $84 million to advertise sugary drinks on Spanish-language television, an increase of 80% since 2010.
Black and Latino children under two are twice as likely to experience obesity than white children, Salcedo said.
Salcedo mapped out how close childcare centers are to Northglenn restaurants that would be impacted by this policy. She said almost every childcare center is within a half mile of a restaurant that offers a children's meal with an unhealthy beverage option.
She also pointed out the trend with children seeking care for obesity is higher closer to clusters of restaurants that don't offer healthy beverage options for kids' meals. Those restaurant clusters are also closest to where Spanish speakers live.
“What we know from both maps side by side is that where there is a higher prevalence of too much weight for health among youth seeking care, there is also the highest percentage of Spanish-speaking communities,” she said.
Salcedo’s group hosted summer events last year and gave presentations about healthier eating to about 200 students and either visited restaurants to discuss the problem or provided informational Zoom sessions. Mayor Meredith Leighty noted that no restaurants attended the Zoom sessions.
“My concern is we already have a lack of interest from the restaurants,” she said.
Dana Sobel, Community Prevention and Policy Specialist for ACHD, said that the initiative was promoted by the economic development office. She views the lack of attendance as a good thing because if restauranteurs were upset over it, they would have attended to voice their disapproval.
Sobel said other cities have also enacted healthy beverage policies, including Lafayette, Longmont, Golden, New York City and others. States that have done so include California, Delaware, Hawaii and Illinois.
Councilor Katherine Goff asked if other cities like Westminster and Thornton will also take part, but Sobel said that they haven’t been asked yet.
Councilor Rich Kondo asked about penalties. Sobel said the first step would be education and going to the restaurant to help them get in compliance. If the restaurant still doesn’t comply after a certain amount of days, a fine could be charged to the restaurant.
Kondo also noted the importance of choice.
“You want to make this option available, but ultimately the success is determined by whether people choose that option,” he said.
Sobel said it comes down to marketing and making the healthy choice easier.
“It is an individual choice, but it is also the environment where the individual functions, lives, works and plays,” Salcedo said.
Kondo asked if it starts to infringe on free speech.
“Targeted marketing is the responsibility of our governments to address, especially when we know the industry has had a history of targeted marketing in certain populations,” Salcedo said.