San Francisco, CA – This year marks the five-year anniversary of San Francisco’s Sugary Drinks Distributor Tax (SF Soda Tax) Initiative, a 1 cent per ounce fee on the initial distribution of drinks with added sugar. The revenue has generated millions of dollars for the communities most impacted by sugary drinks and the most targeted by the industry. To celebrate this remarkable achievement, the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s Community Health Equity & Promotion Branch (CHEP) and partners will host a week-long celebration of four events November 4 – 9, 2023. The celebration will center around the key pillars (community, science, youth, and policy) that have made San Francisco a model for the successful implementation of the soda tax.
In its first set of budget recommendations, the Sugary Drinks Distributor Tax Advisory Committee (SDDTAC) envisioned soda tax funded community-based grants. SFDPH, in partnership with the San Francisco Public Health Foundation (SFPHF), brought this vision into fruition in 2019 through the Healthy Communities Grants Program, which dedicates $3.5 million annually in soda tax funds to programs reaching San Franciscans most impacted by the beverage industry and supporting long-term sustainable changes that are health promoting, community building, and equity focused. This tax is helping San Franciscans live their best lives by making it easier to drink more water, eat fresh fruits and vegetables, get exercise, improve oral health, and drink less soda.
SF Soda Tax five-year anniversary schedule of events:
Saturday, November 4 at 1:00pm, Community In-Person Event
Florence Fang Community Farm
41 Diana St. San Francisco, CA 94124
Family friendly event at the Florence Fang Community Farm, a soda tax grantee and the only USDA-registered farm in San Francisco. Event will highlight program achievements and feature healthy and delicious food tastings and demos, gardening and planting activities, fitness and movement, games, performances, giveaways, and live entertainment.
Tuesday November 7 at 12:00pm, Science Hybrid Event
Medical Grand Rounds: Five Years with the SF Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax: Results of a Community-Public Health-Academic Partnership
Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital’s Carr Auditorium, 1001 Potrero Ave., Building 3
1st Floor, Room 101 San Francisco CA 94110
Internationally recognized health communication scientist and expert in chronic disease prevention and control, Dr. Dean Schillinger, along with panelists who engaged in research and clinical based advocacy, will discuss the partnerships that made SF’s soda tax a success and the health implications of the soda tax that have resulted in significant reductions in consumption, investments in new public health programming and health benefits.
Thursday, November 9, at 12:00pm, Youth In-Person Event
June Jordan School for Equity
325 La Grande Ave, San Francisco, CA 94112
Soda Tax dollars directly fund SF Unified School District (SFUSD) and youth-serving organizations to improve school food, access to water, oral health education and services, and student-led action. Students at June Jordan High School for Equity will celebrate the 5- year soda tax anniversary during a lunch time event. Urban Sprouts Youth Apprentices will lead some sugary drink education activities and water tastings with herbs from the garden.
Thursday, November 9, at 1:00pm, Policy Virtual Event
Virtual Policy Panel Co-hosted by the Sugary Drinks Distributor Tax Advisory Committee and the American Heart Association
A dynamic panel representing a spectrum of expertise from on the ground grassroots organizing, to community and physician advocates, to equity champions and policy makers, who not only help pass the SF Soda Tax, but also other policies supporting healthy eating, active living, and equitable access to water; will gather to discuss the success of SF’s Soda Tax and to lay the groundwork for future policy efforts.
Learn more about five-year anniversary event details at https://www.sodatax-sf.org/5yr/
The Community Health Equity & Promotion Branch (CHEP) is a branch of the Population Health Division in the San Francisco Department of Public Health that supports community well-being, sustain healthy communities, and promote health equity through sustainable change approaches, community capacity building, mobilization, and community partnerships with a racial and cultural humility lens.
Soda tax funded programs were selected based on priorities set by the SDDTAC, to support community capacity and self-determination while also decreasing chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Program categories include nutrition security, physical activity, oral health, water access, community building, workforce development and mental health.
“We are so pleased that the soda tax has been effective in developing a distribution process for high quality fresh produce and other food staples that not only provided vital sustenance to communities made vulnerable by structural inequities, but also supported small produce businesses that might otherwise have had to close their doors,” said Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax. “These program partnerships have supported long-term sustainable changes that are health promoting, community building, and equity focused.”
With the anniversary, SFDPH released a series of interactive maps and data dashboards detailing demographic and health data positive impacts since the implementation of the soda tax. Results from the evaluation shows how soda tax investments have promoted structural and systemic changes in access to healthy food, and improved cultural norms related to water, sugary drinks and fruit and vegetable consumption.
Dozens of small business owners and farmers, who are mostly BIPOC, have been able to secure economic stability through direct sales. Florence Fang Community Farm, a community-based soda tax grantee of the Healthy Communities Grant Programs, is the only USDA-registered farm in San Francisco. Their Bayview Black Organic Farmers Program rehabilitates land and spirit in the San Francisco Bayview-Hunters Point community.
“Soda tax funding has made a big impact on the Florence Fang Community Farm,” said the farm’s head gardener Faheem Carter. “At the farm, we’re providing food, an outlet for people, and education for the youth in the community,” Carter said. "Your health is important. Being outside and taking care of the environment is important.”
Community building has also been a valued benefit of the soda tax work. Funds have provided services and job opportunities with an emphasis on hiring people from priority populations.
“The soda tax funding has brought people together in a way that has really connected the community,” said Asa King, Deputy Director for Community Health. “The revenue from the soda tax has multiple positive benefits. Our community partners hired and trained community members, promoting meaningful connections with those they serve.”
San Francisco will continue to build on the success of the first five years of the soda tax implementation, through the new cohort of funding agencies selected in July 2023, as part of a $4.5 million grant over three years. This new cohort will address American Indian land and food security, farming and water access in the Bayview Hunters Point, credentialling community health workers in the Pacific Islander and community gardening for Potrero public housing youth. For more information on the San Francisco Soda Tax, please visit https://www.sodatax-sf.org/