To reduce child obesity, New Orleans passed a new law that prohibits sodas in Kids' Meals
By: April Carson
To address the pressing issue of childhood obesity, the New Orleans City Council has recently passed an ordinance requiring that all children's meals served in fast food restaurants must include a healthy drink. With this new rule in place, families can rest assured knowing their youngsters are receiving wholesome nutrition options when dining out.
Last January, the Healthy Kids' Meal Beverage Ordinance was passed and put into effect on Sunday. It limits children's meals to beverages such as water, milk or 100% fruit juice for a healthier lifestyle choice. This new ordinance is a part of the city's larger initiative to reduce childhood obesity by making healthier choices more accessible and attractive.
The New Orleans City Council is committed to creating an environment that encourages and supports healthy habits for children.
Jeanie Donovan, deputy director of the New Orleans Health Department, stated: “We understand that sugary drinks are a major source of added sugar in children’s diets. Additionally, if they consume too much sugar it can lead to diseases such diabetes and cardiovascular conditions during adulthood.”
The ordinance sets the example of how a city can contribute to the ongoing health and wellness conversation with tangible initiatives that make a real difference in kids' lives.
Parents are encouraged to take advantage of the healthier options offered in Kids' Meals, which now includes water, low-fat milk or 100% juice. Additionally, restaurants have the option to offer additional healthy side items such as fruit and vegetables.
With the American Heart Association's assistance, the NOHD created an ordinance that will be accompanied by a comprehensive educational campaign. According to Dr. Jennifer Avegno, City Health Director, “Introducing our little ones to habits that promote better health is essential for their long-term wellbeing - and this rule will certainly help guarantee healthier choices are readily available.”
While children and their parents may still purchase sugary beverages separately, they cannot include these within the kids' meal combination.
When the bill was initially passed, it received support from former District E Councilmember Cyndi Nguyen. Statistics reveal that in New Orleans children aged 2 to 4 have an obesity rate of 14%, a startling number which emphasizes the need for this kind of legislation.
It is hoped that by removing sugary drinks from the kids' meal option, children will be encouraged to make healthier choices. This could contribute greatly to reducing childhood obesity in New Orleans, allowing parents and caregivers to prioritize health when they take their children out for meals.
“It is essential to ensure the wellbeing of our children without denying the rights of their parents,” Nguyen stated last year. “This plan simply serves as an instructive tool for families to make healthier choices."
Last year, the council's ordinance was deferred for almost a full 365 days due to worries expressed by restaurant and beverage-industry stakeholders who asserted that it could be an additional burden on businesses already suffering during these pandemic times. They recommended that instead of passing the proposal, the council should issue a symbolic declaration.
New Orleans is becoming part of the ever-growing list of cities and states that have already passed similar laws. Bigger fast-food establishments, such as McDonald's and Burger King, are ahead of the game in providing healthier drink options by default; this could mean that it will primarily affect smaller restaurants who are independently owned.
To ensure that restaurants abide by the new ordinance, the Health Department will conduct either menu reviews for newly opened eateries or respond to 311 complaints. The consequences for ignoring regulations are severe: a warning is issued with their first violation within one year and $200 fine on subsequent violations. This enforcement approach seeks to promote public health through education as well as punitive measures.
This new law has already seen success in reducing the consumption of sugary drinks by children, and is part of a larger effort to curb the epidemic reach of child obesity throughout the city.
Nguyen emphasized last year that this ordinance is not meant to punish, but rather to inspire restaurants into compliance. If you witness any violations of the restaurant regulations, please let the Health Department know by calling 3-1-1, filling out an online complaint form, or visiting them in person at City Hall.
It's encouraging to see the City of New Orleans taking proactive steps towards improving public health, and let's hope this ordinance is successful in reducing childhood obesity. The regulations are sure to be easier to comply with than they will be to enforce.
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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