For immediate release
New York, NY August 23, 2018 — The American Heart Association supports New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s decision to advance the NYC Healthy Kids Meals Bill (Int. 1064). The bill, which was introduced on August 8, is designed to promote healthy drinks for kids by making water, milk and 100% fruit juice the default beverage options for families when they dine at New York City restaurants.
The AHA applauds the leadership and vision of Speaker Johnson and bill sponsor, Council Member Ben Kallos. With this announcement, the AHA remains optimistic that the Council will move quickly to approve the policy. A similar piece of legislation passed the California Legislature earlier this week, positioning California to be the first state in the country to approve the measure. We are confident that all New Yorkers would benefit from passing this proposed legislation.
“We want our kids to be as healthy as can be, which is why I am supporting this legislation. Encouraging healthy drinks like milk and 100 percent fruit juice will teach children good habits that can last a lifetime. I thank the American Heart Association for their tireless advocacy on this issue and heartfelt commitment to healthier outcomes for all of us,” said Speaker Corey Johnson.
“I am excited that Speaker Johnson and the New York City Council support this policy and understand the importance of making the first option on children’s menus the healthy one,” said LeWanza Harris, MD, MPH, American Heart Association NYC Board Member and Family Medicine Physician at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “Consuming sugary drinks, such as soda, sports drinks and fruit drinks with added sugar, poses a real health risk to kids, and is associated with chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. Sugary drinks contribute more calories and sugar to children’s diets than any other single source. Making water, milk, 100% fruit juice and sparkling water the default beverage options for all restaurants kids’ meals in the city will improve health outcomes for our city’s children.”
Children frequently eat out at restaurants. In fact, a national survey showed that one-third of U.S. children and adolescents consume fast food on a given day. Sugary drinks, which are too high in sugar for kids and are harmful to their health, are often served as the automatic drink with kids’ meals. The most recent information from the USDA estimated that children 2 to 19 years old, on average, consume one-quarter of their calories from restaurants and other food-service establishments.
Improving healthy options on restaurant menus can help improve diet quality and cultivate healthy eating behaviors, which can help children grow up at a healthy weight and promote lifelong heart health.
This legislation will also help address health inequity. Today, children in low-income communities and children of color are more likely to live with the burden of unhealthy weight. These same communities are more exposed to fast-food companies. Evidence demonstrates that fast-food marketing disproportionately affects low-income, black, and Hispanic youth, who are also at greater risk for chronic disease due to diet.
A 2017 Global Strategy Group survey commissioned by the American Heart Association found that New Yorkers expressed nearly universal support (94 percent) for making the food and beverage options on children’s menus healthier. The survey concluded that NYC voters are strongly in favor (87 percent) of making healthy drinks like water and low-fat milk the default drink option on children’s menus.
By passing this bill, New York City can remain a leader in public health and join a growing number of cities and states setting healthy standards on kids’ restaurant menus to promote children’s health.