Melissa participated in a walking tour of East Harlem last Wednesday with reporters and the American Beverage Association to see how the soda ban would potentially affect local businesses. After speaking one-on-one with restaurant owners, all previous concerns about the ban have only been further reinforced.
The ban will cover soda fountain drinks and teas at any establishment that receives a letter grade from the city’s Health Department. That list includes restaurants, fast-food restaurants, delis, movie theaters, sports arenas and food carts that will be prohibited from selling sugary drinks that are larger than 16 ounces. However, this does not prevent consumers from going next door to where they’re eating to purchase a large soda at a grocery store or bodega. That is the major concern for many local East Harlem establishments – most of which are sandwiched between grocery stores, delis, and bodegas.
“This is just a distraction,” Melissa said about the proposed ban. “East Harlem has the highest proportion of obese adults in New York City and nearly half of our residents report not exercising at all. We should be focusing on changing our communities’ attitudes towards health and that starts with enforcing mandatory physical education in public schools and increasing access to fresh, healthy foods. Only 3% of bodegas in East Harlem carry fresh vegetables. We need to get to the root of the problem and stop focusing on the size of a cup of soda.”