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Manel Kappagoda's picture

I’m going to need some help, and I’m going to need it soon.

My daughter Ruby is a typically happy, silly two-year old girl. Up until now, I've been able to control pretty much everything she eats and drinks. When she was born, I breast-fed her. When she started eating solid food, she enjoyed tomatoes and berries from our garden. We're careful to buy eggs from happy hens.

But soon, too soon really, she'll be heading off to school and it will become harder and harder to make sure she gets the best food possible.

That's why I'm watching closely to see what happens in Richmond, California this Election Day. Voters will be deciding whether to approve a new tax on sugary soda. Opponents argue that it’s interfering with our choice to eat and drink whatever we want. Same with New York City’s proposal to limit the size of sodas sold in fast food restaurants and movie theaters. People are calling the mayor a nanny for telling people what they can or can’t do.

But here’s what I know. People who drink a lot of soda are at higher risk for Type 2 diabetes. Right now, I'm watching my father struggle to manage his diabetes. He has to monitor every single item of food he puts in her mouth and he can no longer enjoy the sweet treats that he loves. Three times a day before he eats, he has to prick his finger and measure his blood sugar. His diet is severely restricted; he never eats sugar. Managing diabetes effectively is a 24/7 job.

If Ruby grows up drinking soda, she's much more likely to become obese and develop Type 2 diabetes. If that happens, her choices will be limited, too. She’ll have to monitor her food intake all the time and check her blood sugar daily. Her health insurance choices may be restricted. She may not be able to participate in certain sports. Her job opportunities and travel options may even be limited.

I've seen how diabetes takes away people’s choices. I want my daughter to be healthy, and I’d happily take a little help right now from a nanny like the government.

For more about ways to reduce soda consumption in your school or community, see

All photos courtesy of Lydia Daniller, courtesy of ChangeLab  Solutions

This piece originally aired on KQED Public Radio on 10/22/12. That version can be heard here:

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