Councilman Wants to Ban Soda Vendors From City Parks: What Do You Think?

Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander wants to ban sodas from city parks. Is that fair?

Citing the city's need to address childhood obesity, Councilman Mitch Englander (CD12) has proposed a motion to the Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee that would disallow the placement of soda vending machines in public parks and libraries, the Los Angeles Daily News reports. 

Englander's motion states:

As a City, we need to lead by example by making soda unavailable in our recreation and library facilities, Children cannot be blamed for poor nutritional choices, but as adults, we must limit those choices in City facilities known for children and teenage recreation. Therefore, we should ban soda in City Library and Park vending machines. The elimination of sodas in Department of Recreation and Parks (RAP) vending machines will not put an end to childhood obesity, but it is a small step in educating the public about healthier food and beverage choices.

In stating his case for the elimination of soda vending machines, Englander noted that the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has banned the sale of sugary sodas on their property since 2002.

"The RAP oversees hundreds of vending machines located on City-owned land in or around RAP facilities," Englander wrote in the motion. "Although most of these machines are maintained by private contractors, RAP as the facility operators should have the authority to disallow the selling of sodas in these machines."

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 17-percent of America's children were obese in 2009-2010. The CDC also notes that "empty calories from added sugars and solid fats contribute to 40% of daily calories for children and adolescents aged 2–18 years, affecting the overall quality of their diets. Approximately half of these empty calories come from six sources: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk."

The Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee continued Englander's motion for 45 days on Tuesday, pending a report from the city's Chief Legislative Analyst.


Margarito Martinez June 20, 2012 at 06:18 PM
It's up to the parents to address childhood obesity, if in fact their children are obese. It is NOT the responcibility of government to do so. What of the kids who are fat because they eat too many freoles? Will the City Council ban lard and refried burritos too? Using the same logic, shouldn't the City educate us on the "dangers" of certain ethnic foods? Health class is where kids should be taught nutrition. The kitchen table at home is where kids should be taught healthy eating choices, by their parents! Not the State! Sodas don't cause obesity...people who drink liters of it all the time cause obesity.
David Fonseca (Editor) June 20, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Keep in mind, Margarito, that the government is not banning soda consumption in L.A. It would be prohibiting the sale of soda on properties that they own/manage. Important distinction, no? You mention health class--but isn't that another example of the State teaching "healthy eating choices?" Food for thought. Thanks for commenting.
Ryan June 20, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Soda is liquid candy. In some cases it has more sugar than a candy bar. Why do we as a society think there's not a problem with drinking soda as if it's water? It's crazy to me that at almost every restaurant the only drinks are soda or fountain juices full of sugar. We have to stop this way of thinking and I think the government should take the first step by not promoting this on public property.
Shawn Richardson June 20, 2012 at 07:12 PM
The city council can't even solve basic problems like maintaining basic infrastructure. They have no chance to solve childhood obesity. This is political hash so they can appear to be doing something while running the city into the ground. Pay no attention to the crumbling streets, the population stagnation, disease outbreaks among the homeless encampments, business flight, or massive unemployment because at east they are thinking of the children. Nevermind that this will do nothing but lower the revenue the parks pull in which will make them more likely to be shut down. Why should the majority of people be punished for the poor choices of the minority?
Shawn Richardson June 20, 2012 at 07:13 PM
I have never been to a restaurant in which I was unable to get a glass of water.
John June 21, 2012 at 06:38 AM
If the point of our city selling chemical-laden sugar water (soda) is to garner revenue, then why doesn't the city sell cigarettes and alcohol? All are legal and equally unhealthy for various reasons. In fact, using Margaritos logic, the city should sell any drug or narcotic in our parks. After all, Margarito doesn't want the state in anyone's business including dope peddlers.
Margarito Martinez June 21, 2012 at 07:08 AM
Come on! We're talking about soda pop here, not herion or cocaine! I don't know what the numbers are but instinct tells me you'd have to drink an awful lot of soda to develope obesity. I can imagine a municipality licensing venders to sell alcohol/cigarettes. They're legal, as you say. I don't think it is government's job to limit people's choices, and I don't think it's government's job to decide what's good for me. That's my job! The individual, educated in public schools as to the pros and cons of certain lifestyles, then hopefully is equipted, along with healthy reinforcement at home, to make the best decision for themselves. Learning nutrition in school is different from the government playing parent/nanny. They're saying people can't be trusted not to kill themselves by overindulging in soft drinks, so they'll just take the drink away!
nonoise June 21, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Can the libraries afford to lose that source of income? All people have to do is go across the street to the local store to get their favorite soda or the fast food restaurant. People will not stop drinking soda's just because you stop selling them at libraries. And, now students go to the local store after school to get their soda's. That means less income for schools, that's all.
Peter Bedard June 21, 2012 at 02:49 PM
I've worked with several nutritionist who've all said they would rather have a client who smoked cigarettes then drank soda...each of them thinks that soda are worse the smoking!
nonoise June 21, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Big brother government is not the solution. The only solution is education.
Shawn Richardson June 21, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Chemical laden sugar water? Um, you do realize water (H2O) is a chemical. The can the soda comes in is a chemical. The person drinking the soda is a big chemical bag filled with chemicals. You make it sound like there is something inherently wrong by virtue of chemicalness.
Shawn Richardson June 21, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Maybe you should talk to a medical doctor about that. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist without credentials or qualifications as evidenced by that particular inanity you presented.
Hooper Humperdink June 21, 2012 at 04:07 PM
At the parks in Los Angeles that I visit regularly, it isn't the soda vending machines that are causing problems - though banning the sale of sugar and corn-syrup laden fizzy water is a good idea on LA Parks property. First, the non-permitted vendors that operate in LA's parks are basically corn syrup delivery men. They make a buck off the kids and families in the park and the remains of the candy and snacks they sell are smeared all over the park - which the vendors don't make the slightest move to clean up. I have seen this in Lincoln Park and Sycamore Grove Park. Second, LA's parks in our community are usually placed along old street car routes along the older boulevards in the city. The trouble is that these old streets are designed by LA's department of transportation to be mini-highways. Trying to cross Mission Dr. with cars blasting by at 45 mph simply doesn't feel safe. Ditto for Sycamore Grove. Once you get to the park - the air pollution is palpable, you can feel it sting as you jog in the park or push your kid on the swing. So, should soda be banned from vending machines in LA's parks? Sure, why not. We also need a more comprehensive look at how vendors operate in our parks and the road designs around our parks as well.
Anne Colburn June 21, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Instead of banning soda sales, how about closing down the many "taco" spots around the area. Cooking raw meat on a bbq outside your home, on the street, and selling them is not just dangerous but illegal. It also hurts the the restaurants that pay taxes and pay for permits. Let's enforce the laws we already have on the books before adding more .
Margarito Martinez June 21, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Very good comment, Anne. You make a lot of common sense. I agree completely.
Shawn Richardson June 21, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Soda may lead to someone getting obese and maybe then having health problems. People riding bicycles have killed people. ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/25/chris-bucchere-cyclist-charged-felony_n_1452946.html ). Should we ban bikes? Sure why not, right Josef? Or are you only for banning things you don't like and won't effect you? I mean, the vendors will have their businesses damaged just like you would be from a bike ban.
Daniel June 21, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Nutritionists are probably better versed on nutrition than an MD who only takes 1-3 nutrition classes. My doctor told me that!
David Fonseca (Editor) June 22, 2012 at 12:09 AM
Anne and Margarito--respectfully--here's the point I think you're glossing over. The government is not banning soda. They are prohibiting the sale of it on property they own/manage. Isn't that a huge difference? Shawn has made a valid point: this may hurt the city because it will decrease revenues. (Though I wonder how much the city really brings in through soda contracts--worth investigating!) Others have pointed out that this is a waste of the government's time. That's another valid point. However, In my opinion, making the rhetorical leap from the government prohibiting the sale of something on their property to "closing down the many "taco" spots around the area" is not a sound move.
Margarito Martinez June 22, 2012 at 10:21 PM
I understand that the government is not banning sodas, only sales of it on "THEIR" property. The truth is public parks belong to everybody, soft drink consumers or not. All of US. I still disagree with the approach and especially the rational. It's over reaching by the City. The Northeast Sun just had a story about the role of certain ethnic foods contributing to diabetes and obesity. So, why not bring up a retorical crack down on fatty Mexican foods? The Homeboy Industries cafe in City Hall, for instance. I just feel this is wrong headed and a waste of time and resources by elected officials. It's silly.
David Fonseca (Editor) June 22, 2012 at 10:47 PM
That makes more sense to me, though I'm not sure how much time or resources are going to be devoted to ending contracts with soda vendors. I don't have a strong stance on this personally. I drink at most one soda per month, but I don't begrudge anyone who enjoys it. (Orange juice is nearly as sugary, by the way, though it is packed with fiber and vitamins.) Englander's move is ultimately a symbolic one--even a city as large as L.A. is unlikely to seriously curb soda consumption by prohibiting its sale at its parks and libraries. They're definitely not stopping anyone from drinking soda, they're just declining to further promote it. I suppose that is a waste of time, but not a particularly egregious one.
LeeAnn June 25, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Councilman Englander’s proposed soda ban is not a form of nutrition education. Restricting the sale of sodas at public parks and libraries does nothing to teach kids in Los Angeles about healthy eating. As a registered dietitian, I counsel families with overweight children and talk to my clients, including companies like Coca-Cola about the importance of a balanced diet, portion control and physical activity to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. There are many ways the government can help kids be healthier and lose weight, but banning one food or drink is not the solution.


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