Who was involved in this campaign?
The Berkeley Healthy Child Coalition formed in November 2013. Members include parents, teachers, public health and healthcare professionals, leaders of community organizations, and other concerned residents who had personally been committed to addressing health disparities in Berkeley for two decades.
The campaign was backed by a broad base of community supporters, like the Berkeley NAACP, Latinos Unidos, and Berkeley Federation of Teachers, leading public health policy experts, and food movement champions.
How did the soda tax get passed?
In early 2014, members of the Berkeley Healthy Child Coalition gathered petition signatures from Berkeley residents asking City Council to include a tax measure on the November 2014 ballot. In July 2014 the city council unanimously approved Measure D for the ballot, which was designed to impose a general tax, rather than a special tax.
After it was placed on the ballot, Big Soda spent over $2.4 million trying to defeat us. They used every trick in the book, including creating fake grassroots front groups, claiming the soda tax was misleading and confusing, saying it would “hurt poor people” while they simultaneously profited off marketing to those same people, buying up billboards, and sending mailers. They even filed a lawsuit against the language of the ballot measure, which was unsuccessful.
Berkeley vs. Big Soda won, however, because of the strength of the community organizing led by the campaign. We ran a genuine grassroots campaign, organizing hundreds of volunteers, and inspiring thousands of supporters to have conversations about the soda tax. We created media committees and press events, sent op-ed letters, hosted public events to offer education on a range of topics related to sugary drinks, and we shared leadership among all involved in the campaign, including young people who are most targeted by soda industry marketing.
All this worked. The campaign was able to cut through the American Beverage Association's noise. On election night, Berkeley resoundingly approved Measure D with 75% of the vote, becoming the first city in the country to successfully levy a tax on sugary drinks.
Watch our videos to see and hear more of the story of the campaign.
Berkeley was not the first city to attempt a soda tax - and it will not be the last. We've heard from people all over the country - and world - who are inspired to create their own campaigns to address health in their communities, and stand up to Big Soda.
Meanwhile, Berkeley's soda tax is working. The City of Berkeley has used the initial funds raised by the soda tax to support public school garden and nutrition programs, and other programs that address health disparities in our community.