Parents, public health experts, early education advocates, business and community leaders call for soda tax

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 16, 2017

Contact: Rose King, 503-863-1363, Rose@brinkcomm.com

Parents, public health experts, early education advocates, business and community leaders call for soda tax

Supporters launch signature gathering efforts for measure aimed at promoting kids’ health, expanding preschool to low-income kids in Multnomah County

(Portland, Ore.) – Today, Yes for Healthy Kids and Education—a coalition of groups leading the fight to fund pre-school for low-income children and other important programs that support kids’ health and wellbeing—kicked off signature gathering for a soda tax to be considered by Multnomah County voters in May 2018. If passed, the proposed measure would add a distribution tax of 1.5 cents per ounce on sugary drinks, including soda, energy drinks and sweetened teas.

“As Oregonians, promoting the health and success of our children is what we do,” said Terri Steenbergen, Campaign Manager. “As a coalition, we’re standing strong to say we care deeply about the future of our communities and by taxing sugary drinks, we will take an important steps forward to support local kids as they grow. ”

The event was held at the YWCA and speakers included: Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran; Oregon State Representative Rob Nosse; Cyreena Boston Ashby, Chief Executive Officer of Oregon Public Health Institute; Maribel Gomez, Small business leader and Multnomah County resident; and José González, Executive Director of Milagro Theatre.

Speakers at the event emphasized that reducing consumption of sugary drinks is an important step to ensure all our kids grow up healthy. Excess sugar intake is a key factor driving chronic conditions such as diabetes, and heart disease. Sugary drinks are the largest source of added sugars in the diets of today’s kids, and are especially harmful because their liquid form makes it easy to consume large doses of sugar in a very short period of time.

“Forty percent of children will develop diabetes in their lifetimes unless we do something about it. And for kids of color, that number is even higher,” said Commissioner Meieran. “We cannot stand by while an epidemic of sugar related diseases puts the lives and the futures of our kids at risk.”

The measure is estimated to raise more than $28.4 million per year in Multnomah County. Half of the revenue will expand preschool programs to low-income children. The rest will help fund programs that support the health and wellbeing of kids, like more physical education, school gardens, improved playgrounds and more. Research shows that early learning boosts brain development along with children’s educational attainment and earnings later in life. Yet only 25 percent of low-income children in Oregon have access to high quality preschool.

“By sending more kids to preschool, we will give our youngest community members the skills they need to succeed in school and in life,” said Cyreena Boston Ashby, Chief Executive Officer of Oregon Public Health Institute. “This common-sense policy is a win-win for health and equity in our communities.”

Earlier this year, Seattle became the eighth city to support a tax on sugary drinks after the city council approved the measure by a 7-1 vote, showing momentum behind the issue. A recent study of the impact of a sugary beverage tax in Berkeley, California showed the policy cut down consumption by up to 20 percent in some neighborhoods with minimal to no impact on small businesses.

Learn more about Yes for Healthy Kids and Education: www.HealthyKidsMultnomah.org