Focusing on healthy food, not hype

Before anyone gets too excited about the wild, false rumor that I want to ban soda pop in Minneapolis, don’t worry: I’m not.  I am continuing to work on ways to get healthy-eating options available to people, especially those in parts of town that are healthy-food deserts.

Those of you who have followed my work know that I’ve been very involved in getting better nutrition options into low-income neighborhoods through our comprehensive Homegrown Minneapolis initiative, which I helped start several years ago. This work is critically important in closing the race and income gaps in public health in Minneapolis.

Last week, I was asked to join a wide range of big-city mayors in signing a letter to Congress that reflected many of these values, and supported expanding federal funding for effective programs that improve access to healthy food, particularly for low-income people.  My team and I debated whether I should sign the letter, however, because it included a clause that said we should “test and evaluate” limiting the ability of federal nutrition aid to subsidize pop.

We worried that this clause would divert attention from the main, important point—that much-needed federal food aid should encourage the purchase and consumption of healthy food — and onto the minor, overhyped debate about pop. Eventually I signed the letter, because encouraging healthy options is so important to the people of my city.

Now some media are instead focusing on the minor point, not the main point, and their misplaced focus is distracting from the important issue of how we help people get access to the food that they need to feed themselves and their families healthily.

So, to the reporters who are asking and to anyone else who is concerned about whether I will spend any time debating pop, the answer is no. To everyone who wants to know whether I will keep fighting to get more healthy-food options to the neighborhoods and people that need them, the answer is yes.

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