May 24, 2021
Prince George’s County Healthy Kids’ Meals Bill Becomes Law
Upper Marlboro, Md. – Today, a Prince George’s County law went into effect that will make it easier for families and their children to choose healthier food and drink options, when ordering kids’ meals at county restaurants. In November, the County Council unanimously approved Prince George’s County Healthy Kids’ Meals Bill (CB-071), which was then signed by County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, enacting the bill into law.
The law becomes the 19th of its kind in the country, but first to include healthier comprehensive options for both food and drinks. It makes water, milk and 100% fruit or vegetable juice default beverage options for all kids’ meals served at Prince George’s County restaurants. It also ensures that food options in kids’ meals limit calories, sugar, salt and fat. Families will be able to order other beverage items upon request. The bill will improve health for county children by making the healthy option the easy choice.
The law will be implemented as a multi-year, five-year tiered approach. In the first year, each restaurant must include healthy drinks as default options in kids’ meals. In the second year, each restaurant must also offer a default healthy side option for kids’ meals. In the third year, restaurants must also offer at least one kids’ meal that is defined as a “healthy kids’ meal.” In the fifth year, enforcement will commence.
Councilmember Sydney J. Harrison is the sponsor of the legislation, which is supported by a diverse coalition, led by Sugar Free Kids Maryland, the Prince George’s Food Equity Council, American Heart Association and Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
“As this groundbreaking new Healthy Kids Meals law takes effect, I look forward to its far-reaching impact on positive health outcomes, especially for our youth in Prince George’s County,” said Harrison. “This new law, creating new opportunities for healthier food and beverage choices as the default offering, is an important tool in our continued effort to fight against high rates of childhood obesity and to encourage improved overall eating habits. We look forward to continuing our work with the business community to help create an environment of improved food equity, increased food access and healthier food options.”
The children of Prince George’s County are becoming more at risk for developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease at alarming rates. The major contributing factor to these problems is the overconsumption of sugary drinks and unhealthy foods. These preexisting conditions can put people at higher risk of becoming severely ill after contracting COVID-19.
“Many kids are getting over 7 times the amount of sugar recommended by the American Heart Association,” said cardiologist and president of the American Heart Association Greater Washington Region Board of Directors, Dr. Federico Asch. “Prince George’s County is leading the charge toward building longer, healthier lives for all by promoting the availability of healthy food and drink options and giving those options lower in sugar, salt and fat priority on menus. It’s truly a win for public health.”
Prince George’s County joins jurisdictions such as Baltimore City, New York City, Philadelphia and the state of Delaware to put similar laws into effect.
“Healthier children’s meals in Prince George’s County will encourage children to form healthy eating habits from a young age, support parents’ efforts to feed their children well, and, importantly, increase access to healthy food,” added CSPI Policy Associate Sara Ribakove. “Prince George’s County successfully joins the national movement to stop restaurants from pushing unhealthy sugary drinks on children and leads the way on addressing sides and entrees. This is a huge win for the community and a model for other cities and states.”
“Healthier choices lead to healthier diets and lower susceptibility to chronic diseases,” said Shawn McIntosh, executive director of Sugar Free Kids Maryland. “We are excited that Prince George’s County has taken the opportunity to ensure that healthy choices will be easier to make for county families so that their children can have better opportunities to live long, healthy lives.”
About Sugar Free Kids Maryland:
Sugar Free Kids Maryland is a diverse coalition working to protect Maryland children from type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay so they can live long, healthy lives. Sugar Free Kids is led by six partner organizations, including the Horizon Foundation, the Maryland State Medical Society (MedChi), the Maryland Conference of the NAACP, the American Heart Association Mid-Atlantic Affiliate, Maryland Association of Student Councils and 1199SEIU. For more on Sugar Free Kids Maryland, visit sugarfreekidsmd.org.
About the American Heart Association:
The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with AHA on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.
About the Prince George’s Food Equity Council:
The Prince George’s County Food Equity Council (FEC) is a local food policy council that works to help Prince George’s County residents grow, sell, and choose healthy foods. Since 2013, FEC has been a voice for county residents at the policymaking table. The FEC focuses on systematic and sustainable changes to Prince George’s public health challenges (i.e., hunger, obesity, and food deserts that lack healthy food options) by advocating for policies that create a more equitable local food system. The FEC is housed within the Institute for Public Health Innovation.
About the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI):
The Center for Science in the Public Interest an independent, science-based consumer advocacy organization with an impressive record of accomplishments and a clear and ambitious agenda for improving the food system to support healthy eating. CSPI provides practical, science-based advice to consumers interested in nutrition, food safety, and health, and leads advocacy for a healthier food environment in communities nationwide. For more on CSPI, visit cspinet.org.