A sugary drink tax can alleviate hunger in RI

Will Kreznick

Dr. Amy Nunn is executive director of the Rhode Island Public Health Institute and Open Door Health. www.riphi.org. Mark Tracy is the president of the board of directors of the Rhode Island Public Health Institute and president and CEO of Cloud Ag. Today, one in four homes in Rhode Island […]

Dr. Amy Nunn is executive director of the Rhode Island Public Health Institute and Open Door Health. www.riphi.org. Mark Tracy is the president of the board of directors of the Rhode Island Public Health Institute and president and CEO of Cloud Ag.

Today, one in four homes in Rhode Island lack sufficient food. Hunger rates increased from 9% prior to the pandemic to 25% in late 2020. During times of economic crisis, the quality of food consumption is also threatened, causing more people to consume calorie-rich and nutrient-poor foods. These trends contribute to chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease. A creative public health solution is needed to address food insecurity and promote healthier eating. 

This legislative session, we have an opportunity to mitigate the food crisis by passing sugary drinks tax legislation introduced by Rep. Jean Philippe Barros and Sen. Valarie Lawson. Research shows this legislation will lead to fewer Rhode Islanders drinking unhealthy sugary beverages. This legislation also proposes using proceeds to make fresh fruits and vegetables more accessible to vulnerable populations through the creation of a Retail SNAP Incentive Program (RSIP).

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