(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Soda tax proceeds to help feed those in need

More than $1 million in funds from San Francisco’s soda tax, approved by voters in 2016, will be put toward providing meals for people affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic, Mayor London Breed said Friday.

The Sugary Drinks Distributor Tax, which assesses distributors of sodas and other sweet beverages 1 center per ounce, are invested in variety of health programs citywide.

As the pandemic continues, $1.65 million of the funds are currently being used to help the city’s neediest residents such as undocumented immigrants, low-income people, seniors, and pregnant and breastfeeding women, according to Breed’s office.

Funding from the tax for people most hard hit by COVID-19 began last month and will be used by the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market to buy meals for community groups that provide food to residents, including the San Francisco African American Faith Based Coalition and the Bayview Senior Center.

In addition, the funds will support San Francisco Unified School District’s efforts to feed families, the mayor’s office said.

Other recipients include the San Francisco Housing Authority and Mission Language and Vocational School.

“COVID-19 has made it really challenging for some of our most vulnerable communities to access food, whether due to loss of income, longer lines at the stores, closing of dining rooms, or other disruptions to normal routine,” Breed said in a statement. “As we respond to the health challenges of COVID-19, it’s important that we keep working together to make sure people have enough to eat and don’t have to worry about where their next meal will come from.”

The chairwoman of the California State Board of Equalization Malia Cohen, who initially authored the legislation during her time as supervisor, applauded the city’s use of the funds.

“We took on Big Soda to materially reduce health disparities for communities of color,” she said. “For decades, targeted advertising in communities like the Bayview and Mission has led to higher rates of diabetes and heart disease. Now, our community is among the hardest hit by COVID-19 and its economic impacts. Using these Soda Tax dollars to ensure access to fresh, healthy food is exactly the kind of direct investment that we need.”

More information about the tax can be found at www.sodatax-sf.org.

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