Longmont city council is due to vote Tuesday night on a “healthy drinks for children’s meals” ordinance that would require restaurants serving children’s meals to make unsweetened water or milk the preferred options with those meals.
The measure, supported by organizations such as St. Vrain Healthy Kids, Healthy Longmont and Boulder County Public Health, would make “healthy drinks – plain or carbonated water with no added sugar, or milk or non-dairy milk substitutes.” no added sugar – the default drink with advertised “kids meals” in Longmont cafes and restaurants.
The proposed order would not prohibit a restaurant’s ability to sell, or a customer’s ability to buy, any other beverage available there, if specifically requested by the purchaser of the children’s meal. A parent, guardian or other adult paying for the meal may request a soda or other sugary drink for the child.
In May, council asked city staff to draft such an ordinance to bring back for formal votes such as the one now slated for Tuesday night – but council members and staff said in May that this should be preceded by a outreach effort to inform and obtain feedback from restaurateurs and members of the general public on the incorporation of this requirement into the Longmont municipal code.
Staff used the city’s “Engage Longmont” website – engage.longmontcolorado.gov – provide information on the measure and survey community members on their support or opposition to the proposal.
However, after the June 26-July 29 online survey ended, 54% of the 289 members of the general public who responded to the survey’s questions were not in favor of the proposed order, staff reported. in a note for Tuesday night’s board meeting.
Recurring themes among the 157 members of the general public participating in the survey who said they opposed the proposed ordinance, the staff wrote, included:
- “Let parents make these decisions for their children. “
- “The city does not have the right to regulate the way people raise their children.”
- “It would be better to educate parents and children about sugar.
- “It would be better to spend time encouraging restaurants to do it voluntarily. “
- “It infringes on our freedom, constitutes an excessive infringement and micromanagement. “
- “Learning good health practices is best addressed through education. “
Recurring themes among the 132 members of the public participating in the survey who said they were in favor of the proposal, staff said, included:
- “It’s an easy way to promote better health. “
- “Many parents don’t realize the impact these drinks have on children. “
- “It’s nice not having to argue with the kids about their drinks at the restaurant. “
- “It’s a little thing that can help reduce obesity.”
- “It’s a simple way to create a big change. “
Other comments received in the survey, according to staff, included:
- “Why not cover the food as well as the drinks? “
- “Parents should also lead by example. “
- “Education, not legislation.
- “We are not Boulder.”
- “The problem is not specific to restaurants.
- “Municipal government should focus elsewhere. “
City staff said they received nine responses from nine Longmont restaurant owners, six of whom said they offer a children’s meal and drink package. Five of the nine said they supported the proposed order, and four did not express their support. Staff did not identify any of these restaurants in their summary.
According to information from the Engage Longmont website on why the prescription is under review, “Sugary drinks have a huge impact on children’s health. They increase the risk of preventable, diet-related chronic diseases such as dental disease, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity. The American Heart Association recommends that children consume no more than one 8-ounce sugary drink per week, but children consume up to ten times that amount. Childhood obesity rates in Boulder County have increased 43% since 2003.
Longmont City Council has discussed the potential Healthy Drink for Children ordinance at least twice before in the past year and a half. In March 2020, after hearing the coalition of groups and agencies promoting the adoption of such a measure, board members voted 6-0, with one member absent, to ask staff to work on the idea and start the preparation of a possible prescription. Last may, council members voted 7-0 to order city staff to bring back such an order for formal votes and a public hearing. Several members of the public also spoke in favor of an ordinance at the council’s open forum in July.
If council votes its initial approval of the order on Tuesday, a public hearing and a final council vote will be scheduled for September 14. In its current form, it will not come into force until January 3, 2022.
Boulder County Public Health is reportedly checking compliance with the order at the same time as it conducts inspections of Longmont restaurants. If its inspectors find a violation, the county health agency will contact a Longmont code enforcement officer or police officer, and the city will enforce it, starting with a warning.
City staff said after this first written warning, another violation could result in a subpoena for a restaurant representative in Longmont City Court, where the restaurant could face a $ 100 fine if it is found guilty. A conviction for any second offense within 12 months could result in a fine of $ 200, while a third or subsequent offense within one year could result in a fine of $ 500.
If you are going to
What: Regular meeting of Longmont municipal council
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Or: Civic Center Council Room, 350 Kimbark Street, Longmont