April 19, 2018

Mayor Pugh Signs Baltimore City Healthy Kids’ Meal Bill

On Apr. 19, Mayor Catherine Pugh signed legislation that will make the healthy choice the easy choice for Baltimore City families ordering drinks from kids’ menus. Baltimore becomes the largest American city – and first on the east coast – to pass this measure.

The Baltimore City Healthy Kids’ Meal Bill (17-0152) ensures that water, milk, 100% fruit juice, sparkling water and flavored water without added sweeteners will become the default drink options for all restaurants kids’ meals in the city of Baltimore. Families will be able to order other drinks upon request.

Large restaurant chains such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Dairy Queen, Burger King, IHOP and Applebee’s have chosen to remove sugary drinks from their kids’ menus since 2015.

The bill helps address the overconsumption of sugary drinks, a key factor in high rates of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay. One in four children in Baltimore drinks at least one soda each day. Sugary drinks are often the default options accompanying kids’ meals in restaurants, and Baltimore families too often end up with these choices as they eat out on an average of 2.6 times per week.

The legislation has been supported by Sugar Free Kids Maryland, a leading voice in Maryland’s fight against type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay and the Baltimore City Health Department. “This is a monumental victory for the city of Baltimore as it moves closer to a culture of health,” said Shawn McIntosh, executive director of Sugar Free Kids Maryland.

“Our coalition is excited that Mayor Pugh has made the commitment to ensure that healthier choices will now be the go-to choice on kids’ meals in the city of Baltimore.  The bill will improve health for Baltimore children by making healthier choices easier to make. We strongly believe this bill will help address the crisis facing Baltimore’s youngest residents with one in three school-aged Baltimore children unable to maintain a healthy weight, often leading to chronic disease.”

The bill was sponsored and championed by City Councilmember Brandon Scott. “I am proud that Baltimore has now become a leader in creating a healthier environment for our children,” said Scott. “Kids throughout our city are suffering from type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases that are brought on by the overconsumption of sugary drinks. This legislation will alleviate this problem and help build healthier drinking habits for everyone in the city.”

The Baltimore City Health Department was also a major supporter of the bill. “I am so proud to work for a Mayor who champions progressive public health policy that will improve health and save lives,” said Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen. “By changing the default option in kids’ meals, Baltimore is making the healthy choice the easy choice as we reduce the rate of childhood obesity.”