Livingston officials adopt policy to nix sugary drinks

Livingston city officials are taking the initiative in promoting healthier lifestyles by adopting a healthy beverages policy.

The policy concentrates on reducing the availability of sugared beverages by requiring that all drinks served at city department meetings and sold in the cafeteria and vending machines meet certain standards.

The policy went into effect April 1. The Police Department, Department of Public Works and City Hall employees have begun participating in the program.

Healthy beverages choices that are now served at meetings and events include water with no added sweeteners, unflavored nonfat or 1 percent milk alternatives, 100 percent fruit or vegetable juices, coffee, tea and diet beverages with non-caloric sweeteners. Juices may have a maximum of 160 calories and 230 milligrams of sodium per container.

The healthy beverages policy was introduced to the city by the California Health Collaborative, a program that focuses on promoting wellness through community education.

Fatima Ashaq, an outreach specialist at the collaborative, said that one reason a healthy beverages policy is being encouraged in Merced County is because of its high obesity rate. Sugared beverages are known to be a major contributor to obesity.

According to Ashaq, similar policies have been implemented in schools and other areas of the community, but this is the first time the municipal employees of any city in Merced County have gotten on board with the healthier beverages program.

Livingston city leaders can be an example for the rest of the community in choosing to lead healthier lifestyles, Ashaq said.

“We’re hoping that Livingston can work as a model for other cites in the county,” she said. “This is a positive change, and we’re glad that someone’s taking the initiative.”

Danna Rasmussen, an administrative analyst for the city of Livingston, was one of the people who helped spearhead the adoption of the healthy beverages policy.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Rasmussen said. “It helps to show that we’re promoting healthy living, and if we show that we’re trying, this can help keep our medical premiums down.”

“So far it (the policy) seems to be working OK,” she added. “We’re also trying to encourage our staff to get some exercise, and everyone seems to be doing their part. Hopefully other cities will join us.”

According to the California Department of Public Health, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages promotes excess calorie intake with little to no nutritional value.

It is estimated that adults who drink one or more sugar-sweetened beverage such as soda per day are 27 percent more likely to be overweight than those who drink less.