SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A Bay Area non-profit is taking on the beverage industry in California. It is a health battle of sorts, aimed at sodas, energy drinks and other sugary beverages.
The people behind the effort are pushing for a new tax and are hoping Santa Barbara County will back them.
The six year long effort to pass a health impact fee through Healthy California Fund AB 1003, has supporters knocking on the front doors of dozens of local program and service providers.
"It would be a two cent per ounce tax," said Michael Dimock, President of Roots of Change, a non-profit program with the Public Health Institute. "It would be, not at the retail level, but at the distributor level."
Dimock said eight percent of Californians have diabetes and another 46 percent are prediabetic. NewsChannel 3 met with Dimock at the Santa Barbara County Foodbank on Hollister Avenue where you would be hard-pressed to find sodas, juices or energy drinks on the warehouse shelves.
"We turn soda and candy away," said Erik Talkin, the Foodbank's CEO. "But what we do have is a lot of people who come to the Foodbank who are diabetic or prediabetic. So we see what a huge problem it is."
Dimock said so far the cities of Berkeley, San Francisco, Oakland and Alameda have passed the tax. He said Berkeley released analysis of its fee and found consumption of sugary drinks went down by 10 percent. Dimock also said the Northern California city earmarked than $1 million dollars from the newly generated tax towards community projects and services.
"This tax in California would raise $2.3 billion dollars per year," Dimock said, claiming those funds would be split three ways: between the Department of Food and Agriculture, the Department of Education and the Department of Public Health.
"Everyone is aware and thinking about the future of the state," Dimock said. "This would be the best approach to fix the problem."
Pushback by the beverage industry is strong. Dimock said thus far, an estimated $16,000 have been spent in campaign contributions on the health committee to stop the bill.
If passed, the new tax would go into effect in the summer of 2018.