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Council won't interfere with eateries offering sugary drinks
• Rejects telling eateries what to serve, saying it's the parents' job
Kids drinking soda is a matter for parents, not the government, the Ceres City Council decided on Monday evening. - photo by Courier file photo

Members of the Ceres City Council on Monday voted reject a resolution that urges restaurants in Ceres to offer water or milk as the “default” beverage rather than high caloric drinks when families order combo meals for children.

Last November the council refused to enact a “default beverage” law that would push milk or water over Cokes with combo meals. The five members recoiled at the suggestion, each saying parents are responsible for what their kids drink, not the government.

On Monday City Manager Toby Wells recommended passing the resolution because studies show that sugary drinks are contributing to childhood obesity.

Vice Mayor Mike Kline said the resolution may accurately acknowledge that restaurants play a central role in the American diet but “I also believe that our parents play a bigger role in allowing their own children and their makeup of what they eat and drink and that is the deciding factor.”

He said encouraging restaurants to remove sodas as the default beverage was giving parents the “easy way out.”

“Saying the restaurants should make the decision for the parents I think is totally wrong” said Kline. “If we’re going to decide the choice for the parents, then why don’t we take away the kids’ meals altogether and say that no one under a certain age can eat or consume food at a fast-food restaurant until a certain age?”

Councilwoman Linda Ryno agreed.

“It’s definitely the parents’ responsibility,” said Ryno. “It’s not the city’s responsibility and I know the resolution states that it encourages restaurants to not offer the sugary drinks but to me encouraging is almost just like you’re ordering them not to.”

“The government should not be telling the restaurants want the parents can be giving their kids,” added Ryno.

Councilman Bret Durossette said the key is to educate parents about nutritional options and that the city could encourage that through a resolution.

Mayor Chris Vierra said he could support a resolution supporting a healthy lifestyle.

“I don’t think it’s government’s place to dictate meals or drinks to the public,” said the mayor. “I think that’s best left for the parents. You know, I could go on for hours as to issues I think parents are not raising their children the way they used to but that’s for another day.”

Ceres resident Len Shepherd said parents today rarely talk to their children about nutrition because “they’re too busy doing their thing.”

“If the government starts poking their noses and telling restaurants and everybody else what they can and cannot do, it’s totally wrong,” said Shepherd.

In 2012, the council adopted the Health Eating Active Living (HEAL) resolution to recognize that obesity is a serious public health threat to the wellbeing of adults, children and families in Ceres acknowledging that “while individual lifestyle changes are necessary, individual effort alone is insufficient to combat obesity’s rising tide and that significant societal and environmental changes are needed to support individual efforts to make healthier choices. The city desires to promote healthy meal options for children and families and contribute to building a healthier community and the city believes that limiting the sugary beverages offered with children’s meals will contribute to the overall health and wellbeing of the city.

Last year Lourdes Perez, a Ceres resident, member of the Ceres Unified School District Board and associate of the Cultiva La Salud organization, told the council that some California cities like Long Beach have passed a similar ordinance. Perez came armed with 600 cards signed by Ceres residents in support of such a default beverage law. She said 4 percent of Ceres children suffer from obesity or an issue of overweight and concluded “it’s a very serious issue for this community, for this population.”

Despite the call for the serving of milk, there are about 12 grams of sugar in each eight-ounce glass of milk.