A hot topic in Philly this year has been recently elected mayor, Jim Kenney’s, plan to implement a “Soda Tax” that would increase the prices of sweet and sugary beverages. While encouraging consumers to choose healthier drink options the revenue allocated from this tax is proposed to be used to rebuild parks and recreation centers, fund education in low-income neighborhoods (including universal pre-k), and fund the City of Philadelphia’s pension system which has a 5.7 billion dollar deficit. Though these ideas sound great and are supported by many people living in the Philadelphia area, opponents of the soda tax question how it would affect low-income families.
Strawberry Mansion, what some would consider a food desert, is one of the most violent and poverty stricken neighborhoods in the city of Philadelphia. In this area of the city the only supermarket is a Sav-A-Lot located on 29th and York in the Strawberry Square shopping plaza. Located in the heart of the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood, many people who do not have access to outside markets do most of their grocery shopping at the conveniently located Sav-A-Lot. Now if you know anything about Sav-A-Lot and the extremely limited alternatives to sweet and sugary drinks they offer then you would understand why a soda tax could possibly be targeting low-income families.
In recent news City Council President Darrell Clark has proposed an alternative plan to the mayor’s soda tax that would change the tax increase from 3 cents per ounce and lessen it to perhaps 1 cents per ounce. In effort to lessen the effects that a soda tax would have on low-income families, Darrell Clark understands that the primary consumers of sweet and sugary drinks are citizens living in low-income neighborhoods who do not have access to healthy alternatives. Considering the amount of corner stores that exist in these neighborhoods in addition to the lack of quality grocery markets it would almost be nonsensical to claim that a soda tax wouldn’t disproportionately effect citizens living in low-income neighborhoods.
When it comes to promoting healthier eating habits I don’t believe taxing citizens who do not have the option to choose healthier alternatives is the right way to go. Why doesn’t the mayor suggest building better quality supermarkets in low-income neighborhoods instead? The added revenue that would be accumulated by a soda tax could do wonders for the city however I don’t believe that these funds should come from the pockets of citizens who have little to give. Though the new Philadelphia mayor’s intentions of implementing a soda tax seem good and well there are many things that must be considered before it should become policy.