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Case Study: Lessons from Two Successful Soda Tax Movements

February 15, 2019

Local soda taxes are policies that work to promote healthy people and communities, and the national grassroots soda tax movement is growing quickly. When sugar sweetened beverages are taxed, people consume less, and the revenue from a local tax is typically used for civic good, including public health, economic development, and education.

Berkeley passed the first such tax in 2014, followed by San Francisco, Oakland, and Albany, California; Boulder, Colorado; Cook County (including Chicago), Illinois; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The following interviews provide detailed and practical lessons for grassroots public health movements from both the Berkeley (2014) and Boulder (2016) campaigns. Learn about inspiring a local movement, managing volunteers, navigating local politics, responding to legal challenges, and more.

Boulder #1: Health Equity

From a grassroots perspective, we must speak up for our communities… If you build a strong coalition, you can hold the [soda tax] revenue accountable to make a difference.  

Healthy Boulder Kids. Credit: Kyle Pfister, Ninjas for Health

– Jorge De Santiago, Executive Director of AMISTAD, Executive Committee for Healthy Boulder Kids

Boulder #2: Local Politics

It’s really important for anyone doing this to have a comprehensive list of local organizations that are key to winning. 

– Angelique Espinoza, former Boulder City Council member & Campaign Manager for Healthy Boulder Kids

Boulder #3: Legal Challenges

Expect that you will be challenged and make sure that you have a good legal team who knows not only tax law, but also election law. Involve that legal team early and make sure that they are a part of the drafting, and that they also understand filing deadlines and local campaign finance and election law.  

Hillary Jorgensen, J.D., Director of Policy Change, Healthier Colorado

Berkeley #1: Building a Successful Grassroots Movement, Part 1  

Photo Credit: Clancey Bateman

If someone walked into the campaign office or sent the campaign an email, wanting to get involved, I would think about what that person could offer and try to plug them in in a way that was useful to the campaign and meaningful for that person. 

-Sara Soka, Campaign Manager for the Berkeley Soda Tax

Berkeley #2: Building a Successful Grassroots Movement, Part 2

I always tried to value the importance of building a relationship with someone coming to us voluntarily – people feel invested, empowered. [When you have] enough people who feel this way about the work, then you have a movement. 

-Sara Soka, Campaign Manager for Berkeley Soda Tax

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