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The Politics of Food Choice

Amy Mydral Miller, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Carmichael, California

I was raised on a farm in North Dakota. My dad was a Democratic farmer, my mom a Republican politician. Political issues were the cornerstone of any family conversation at the dinner table. Today I’m a registered Independent voter, free to make the best choices based on my values and beliefs versus party politics.

Freedom of choice is an essential American value, one I cherish. And freedom of choice is just as important to me when it comes to politics as when selecting foods in a supermarket or on a restaurant menu.

I’m a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and I believe in helping people make informed choices. I’m not in favor of taxing specific foods or beverages, but rather in favor of providing information that helps consumers make informed choices when it comes to nutrition, physical activity, and creating environments that support healthful eating and physical activity.

I was concerned but not surprised to see that voters in Berkeley, Calif., passed a soda tax. I’ll be interested in seeing if the tax has any significant impact on public health. The causes of obesity and diabetes are many, and so are the options for improving public health. I am doubtful that the penny-per-ounce tax on soda will see much improvement in health.

If activists in Berkeley want to promote the health and wellbeing of all citizens, I’d recommend they look at actions like increasing PE class requirements in public schools, improving access to and safety in city parks and recreation centers, re-paving cracked and broken sidewalks, improving street lighting to improve the safety of walking to/from public transportation, or adding short-term bicycle rental stations throughout the city.

You know, now that I think about it, the soda tax may actually do some good; it may encourage people to choose to walk or bike to Albany, Oakland, Emeryville, or other neighboring cities to buy their soda. 

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