On September 21st, the American Heart Association, Bronx Health REACH, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest held a summit on proposed New York statewide and citywide nutrition policies. These policies aim to improve public health through a variety of measures, including policies to decrease consumption of unhealthy food and drinks among New Yorkers. The speakers included a number of legislators, public health professionals, and advocates. The Tisch Food Center participated in this summit with Lesley Kroupa, JD, MS, RD, Interim Policy Director, moderating one of the panels. 

The summit, moderated by Dr. Sara Abiola, PhD, JD, began with presentations by keynote speakers Dr. Naa-Solo Tettey, MPH, EdD and Dr. Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH. Both presentations emphasized the importance of policies to improve diet and reduce the burden of diet-related chronic diseases, which have proven to be risk factors for COVID-19-related infection and death. They also emphasized the importance of decreasing health disparities and improving access to healthy food.

“We need to follow an ecological framework to help communities improve their overall nutrition.”

- Naa-Solo Tettey

“We need policies that will make the healthy choice the easy choice.”

- Marion Nestle

“Good health is a fundamental human right, not a privilege, and that starts with access to healthy food.”

- NYS Senator Alessandra Biaggi

Below are brief summaries of each piece of NYS and NYC legislation presented at the summit and links thereto for up-to-date information on the status of each bill.  

The Healthy Food Services Guidelines Bill (S4644A/A5682A)

Sponsors at the Summit: NYS Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, NYS Senator Alessandra Biaggi

The aim of this bill is to develop and implement evidence-based nutrition guidelines for food served in any state or state-sponsored facility. This includes food services in state office buildings, correctional facilities, and restaurants along the thruway. Notably, the bill would apply to vending machines in state or state-sponsored facilities, but it does not ban the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages. According to Assembly Member Gottfried, sugar-sweetened beverages are a “third-rail topic for Americans.”

Model State School Wellness Policy (WELL Campaign) (S810A/A5159)

Sponsors at the Summit: NYS Assembly Member Michael Benedetto, Senator Alessandra Biaggi

This bill would require the NYS to develop an NYS model school wellness policy. Currently, each school district in NYS decides its own school wellness policies. Of the more than 800 school districts in NYS, some have developed great policies, but other schools are struggling to coordinate school wellness programs and to break down the silos between nutrition, physical activity, and mental health programs. This bill can help schools by providing examples of robust and evidence-based school wellness policies and providing technical assistance and funding for successful implementation thereof. The bill can also help decrease disparities between schools’ wellness policies.

Sodium Warning Labels at Chain Restaurants (S2532)

Sponsors at the Summit: NYS Senator Gustavo Rivera

The bill requires a salt-shaker-like symbol on all items whose sodium content exceeds the daily limit of 2,300 mg. This legislation would apply to chain restaurants, not mom-and-pop restaurants. This is already being done in NYC. As explained by Senator Rivera, the label would help make the sodium information obvious to people to help them make better choices should they want to. If this bill passes, NYS would be the first state to do this.

The Sweet Truth Act: Added Sugar Warning Labels on Menu Board and Signs in Chain Restaurants in NYC (INT-1326)

Sponsors at the Summit: NYC Council Member Mark Levine

The Sweet Truth Act aims to decrease consumption of added sugars by requiring an added sugar warning label be applied to food and beverages in chain restaurants containing 100% or more of daily recommended amounts of added sugar. More details here

Sugary Drink Tax (S4602/A6857A)

Sponsors at the Summit: NYS Senator Gustavo Rivera, NYS Assembly Member Karina Reyes

This bill seeks to apply a tiered-tax to sugar-sweetened beverages. As explained by Assembly Member Reyes, children drink sugar-sweetened beverages mostly at home, not at restaurants. This bill would be especially protective against the rising prevalence of type 2 diabetes among children. The revenue from these taxes would go back to the communities most adversely affected by sugar-sweetened beverages.