Sweetened Beverage Commercials? There Are Better Ways To Impact African American Health Mr. Bloomberg

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg seems to be very invested in protecting the African American population of Cook County from slowly killing ourselves with sugary drinks.

Per Forbes Magazine, he is poised to spend another $3 million dollars in advertising in support of the unpopular tax on sweetened beverages on top of the $2 million that has already been spent in previous ad buys.

$5 million dollars.

In commercials to support the sweetened beverage tax.

Boy howdy that’s a great deal of money.

That’s when my wheels started turning.

I thank Mr. Bloomberg for his concern about the health of the African American community.  The commercials he’s paying for isn’t incorrect about “lifestyle diseases” hastened by diets heavy in processed sugars.

Far be it for me to tell a successful billionaire how to spend his money, but there may be better ways to spend $5 million dollars if you want to have a lasting impact on a larger group of Black people instead of wagging your finger about how sweetened drinks are bad for you.

  1.  The danger of our ever expanding waistlines is important, but the people of Flint haven’t had clean, drinkable water coming out of their faucets for THREE YEARS!  $5 million dollars isn’t going to solve the whole problem, but I’m sure it would help.
  2. Billionaires usually have a hefty amount of influence.  Use that influence along with a hefty donation (*cough*$5 million dollars*cough*) to reopen the south and west side mental health clinics that were shut down over six years ago.
  3. That billionaire’s influence might also be useful to have additional full scale grocery stores open up on the south and west sides.  On a personal note, one new Jewel in Woodlawn is great but additional grocery stores are needed.
  4. I’m sure the (relatively) new Howard Brown clinic in Englewood wouldn’t refuse a $5 million dollar donation.
  5. The Fresh Moves bus (which brings fresh produce for sale to predominately low income food deserts in communities of color) is always looking for funding.  Wouldn’t $5 million dollars be a wonderful way to shore up that program?
  6. Ironically, the Fresh Moves bus is now run by the wonderful folks at Growing Power.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if some of that $5 million dollars helped them promote local community garden initiatives?
  7. I’m confident $5 million dollars earmarked for the administrative needs of south & west side Farmer’s Markets would be welcomed with open arms.  Perhaps that money could expand the dollar for dollar matching LINK program at most of the existing markets.
  8. Instead of the city subsidizing the Divvy For Everyone program and digging into their pockets to conduct adult cycling classes, perhaps that $5 million dollars could be used to further promote active healthy lifestyles on the south and west sides.
  9. Mr. Bloomberg, you may not be aware of the ticking time bomb of environmental injustice that is the West Calumet complex in East Chicago, IN but I’m sure a combination of your influence and $5 million dollars would raise the issue’s profile.

P.S.  Environmental racism is a thing.  Hint:  A great deal of children growing up in these old buildings on the south and west side have elevated lead in their blood.  Yeah, sugar is bad for you but so is a shitty diet and lead poisoning.


10. If a grassroots organization that works directly with anti violence initiatives had $5 million dollars going to them directly, think of the lives that could literally be saved.

To be completely transparent, I wasn’t a fan of CeaseFire and thought it was a waste of taxpayer dollars.  Then of course, I wasn’t their target demographic so the few interactions I had with their Violence Interrupters wasn’t destined to be warm and fuzzy.  Nonetheless, as I saw the direct results of that peer to peer interaction (Good game sees all game, Mr. Bloomberg) I now very much understand how an Old G may keep a New G from a bad decision.  Their constant presence is missed.

Some of the leading lights in this city and $34 million dollars couldn’t do the job that Cease Fire and similar organizations did.

And the best part?  You know how you measure the returns?  The number of bodies that aren’t dropping in these streets.  I get that report and returns are a normal part of business, but what we’re experiencing on the south and west sides isn’t normal and it’s definitely not about business.  Invest in peace.

Mr. Bloomberg, if you’re serious about making a difference in the quality of health of African Americans in Chicago (and the region), you may want to consider some of the above suggestions.  Because these sanctimonious commercials that are currently airing come off as both paternalistic, patronizing and politically opportunistic.

Do you think a few commercials outlining the evils of sugar amount to anything when the Black community is facing much larger health hurdles?

C,mon now.  Anyone with a brain, especially the African American community that you’re pandering to, doesn’t need that type of “help.”



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