Next steps for measures on sugary drinks, nutrition benefits at farmers markets, school breakfast, safe school zones
Another eventful legislative session has wrapped up in California. From climate change legislation to the strengthening of tobacco laws to the expansion of Medi-Cal coverage to all kids regardless of immigration status, many of the bills had significant implications for the health, safety, and equity of Californians.
This year, the Strategic Alliance for Healthy Food and Activity Environments, a network of advocacy organizations and statewide partners, focused on six bills to support at our 12th annual ENACT Day and throughout the remainder of the legislative session. These bills aimed to address the health risks posed by sugary drinks, expand and strengthen school safety zones to protect students who walk and bike to school, extend the buying power of people living in poverty when they use nutrition benefits at farmers markets, and ensure that students don’t start the school day hungry.
Here’s a quick roundup:
- Nutrition Incentive Matching Grant Program: AB 1321 (Ting) was signed into law by Governor Brown this fall! This law creates the infrastructure for a statewide grant program that would double the value of nutrition assistance benefits at farmers markets and small business retailers when used to buy California-grown fruits, nuts, and vegetables. This is good news for healthy food retailers and recipients of CalFresh nutrition benefits, who will gain greater access to healthy foods. The next step is securing funding through the state budget.
- Curbing sugary drink consumption: SB 203 (Monning) proposed a warning label for sugar-sweetened beverages to provide consumers with information about the unique health risks posed by liquid sugar, and AB 1357 (Bloom) proposed a fee on sugary drinks to fund the Children and Family Health Promotion Program. SB 203 was one vote shy of passage in the Senate Health Committee and AB 1357 did not pass out of the Assembly Health Committee. SB 203 is eligible for reconsideration by the Senate Health Committee in January 2016, and supporters of the health impact fee expect to reintroduce the bill in 2016. Consumption of sugary beverages places a disproportionate toll on the health of low-income children and people of color, for whom inequities in diet-related chronic diseases remain a preventable problem.
- School Breakfast after the Bell: AB 1240 (Bonta & Thurmond), focused on ensuring that children in California, particularly students attending high-need schools, have access to school breakfast. This bill was held in the Assembly Appropriations Suspense file. California Food Policy Advocates will bring School Breakfast After the Bell as a budget request this year to increase state funding for school breakfast and require breakfast to be served after the bell in schools with the highest poverty rates. A recent study from FRAC underscores the benefits that breakfast after the bell bring to schools and school-aged children.
- Safer school zones: SB 564 (Canella) proposed an additional $35 fine for moving violations in school zones and SB 632 (Canella) would allow jurisdictions to expand the size of school zones. Both of these bills have become two-year bills and are expected to move ahead in 2016. With momentum gathering behind Vision Zero, these two bills take a stand to prevent unintentional injuries and traffic safety among children and families as they use active transportation in and around schools.
PI’s Maureen Silva, who worked closely with our statewide partners on ENACT Day policy priorities said, “We’d like to thank our partners who have championed these and other prevention-oriented bills, and the advocates from all regions of the state that took time to share with policymakers why this legislation matters in their communities.” We look forward to seeing you next year! The ENACT Day planning committee is already meeting to discuss how we can continue to support these and other policy issues in 2016, and we look forward to continuing to work in collaboration to move the dial on health and safety in the new year.