Earlier this month, the Stockton City Council passed an ordinance requiring either water or milk to be served as the default beverage in children’s meals.
This is the second law of its kind in the U.S., with Davis being the first to pass the so-called “healthy-by-default” rule. The ordinance — passed unanimously by the Stockton City Council — is the latest attempt at tackling the city’s childhood obesity and type II diabetes issues.
"I believe it's a must," says Andrew Lucero, father. "We need healthier options for our kids."
According to legislative text, the intent of the proposed ordinance is to, “promote healthy meal options for children and their families to build a healthier community by implementing innovative approaches to accomplish these goals.” The frequency and intensity of enforcement activities related to the proposed ordinance will be a function of available staff resources.
In the upcoming months, restaurants that serve meals aimed at children will be required to provide milk, non-dairy milk, water or sparkling water as the default beverage option. Customers will still be able to purchase sodas, juices and other sugary drinks on request. The ordinance asks restaurants to annually self-certify, and compliance will be enforced under administrative citation procedures. The Legislation and Environmental Committee considered the proposed ordinance at their May 3, 2016 meeting.
Some restaurants don't expect business to change much. Customers can still order sugary drinks by request, but it won't be offered first.
"I would hope that it would be a major movement that could lead and that Stockton would be at the forefront of that," says LaCresia Hawkins, program manager at Public Health Advocates.
Today, 55 percent of Californians have prediabetes or diabetes, while 69 percent are overweight and at a higher risk of developing diabetes in the future. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one-in-three children born today will have diabetes by 2050.
“Instead of getting an unwanted soda without asking for one – and being forced to negotiate with their child – parents will be given the opportunity to start the meal off right with a healthy beverage,” Vice Mayor Christina Fugazi said in a press release. “Most parents will stick with the healthier option, protecting their children from the long-term chronic problems associated with liquid candy, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity and tooth decay.”