Community Centered Policy Change: health investments for the berkeley community
A Communities Building Power for Health mini-episode series
The possibilities for improving health justice and equity are vast when there is an authentic partnership and inclusive engagement of community based advocates and organizers. In a special CBPH mini-series, Praxis is featuring the community-led efforts to improve health that have been been funded in part through investments from Berkeley’s soda tax. This series presents the grounded stories of the impact that this funding is having at the community level.
Background: In 2014, a diverse group of residents came together in Berkeley, CA to pass Measure D, the first municipal soda tax in the US. Measure D levies a 1 cent per ounce excise tax on the distributors and producers of sugary drinks that are sold in Berkeley. Measure D funds go into Berkeley's general fund and a commission comprised of residents advises the City Council on how to invest funds towards community-led efforts for health–A great example of participatory budgeting. Since the residents of Berkeley passed Measure D by a margin of 76%, the Berkeley City Council has invested over $7 million into programs designed to improve nutrition and health with an emphasis on serving youth targeted by the beverage industry. This funding has been invested in school and community based programming and activities to offset the negative messaging and predatory marketing and pricing strategies inflicted on our young people.
“We need to show the investment side of the SSB taxes and that these moneys in fact do go back into community in ways that make a difference. We need to show how the infrastructure that makes investments is responsive to community needs. That these funds are building infrastructure and that the drop in consumption of sugary drinks is not just because poor folks can’t afford it, but rather because the education efforts and making the healthy choice the easy choice are being driven through investments.”
Episode one: Berkeley Unified School District’s Gardening and cooking Program
In 2014, due to a federal reorganization of the SNAP-Ed program, funding for BUSD’s gardening and cooking program was cut. Parents, students, and leading community advocates came together to advance the soda tax to replace the lost funding. With the passage of Measure D, the BUSD gardening and cooking program was able to not only continue but the program was also able to significantly expand and better tailor curriculum to the community because the Berkeley grant has less restrictions than the federal funding.