On the one hand you have people -- with no money, no attention and no fanfare -- giving their all, everyday in the uphill fight against the tsunami of soda that's pouring into our neighborhoods. These dedicated, largely anonymous individuals work tirelessly in often thankless jobs to help stem the tidal waves of soda and the disastrous impacts they have on the health and well being of our children and communities, particularly minority children and communities. On the other hand you have an insanely rich, famous entertainer -- a woman who couldn't spend all the money she has even if she tried -- who inked a deal with Pepsi to make her even wealthier -- by hawking the very same sugar water that is poisoning these communities in crisis.
Although the New York Times article states they can't link the declining obesity rates to any one factor, all you need is a little common sense to connect the concerted, coordinated efforts of brave local officials and schools working in the trenches with the reported outcomes. Many of the cities cited are all places that have tackled the childhood obesity crisis head on by instituting regulations such as banning soda from schools. Anchorage banned soda from vending machines in 2006. In 2002, the LA Unified School District approved a ban on selling soda on all district campuses that went into effect on January 1, 2004. Also in 2004, Philadelphia banned sodas, iced teas and other sweetened beverages from school vending machines and cafeterias.
These seemingly small victories are, in fact, big victories and the officials are, in fact, brave. If you have any doubt, take a look at the soda industry's response to Mayor Bloomberg when he first proposed the ban on selling sugary drinks over 16 ounces in New York City restaurants and concession stands. It's worth mentioning that Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, a tireless advocate for healthy communities, spearheaded the effort to institute a soda tax -- twice -- but was defeated when an influx of outside money came flooding in à la the big tobacco playbook.
Beyonce's deal with Pepsi just made everyone's work that much harder and while she will no doubt control every commercial and advertisement to ensure she looks beautiful and glamourous, I can't help but think of all of the people on the ground whose jobs just became more difficult, more uphill and, most of all, the children that look up to her whose health is more at risk.
Follow Dawn V. Woollen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@dvwoollen