It wasn't long ago that I never spent a single moment thinking about childhood obesity.
At dinner parties I did not talk about liquid calories or our physiological blind spot for them. I never spent a moment outraged by Big Soda's marketing to children. And I never started conversations with numbers about healthcare costs.
When I first heard the pitch for a sugar tax to Telluride Town Council, I was intrigued, but mostly from a logistical standpoint. How could a campaign sell a radical solution to a pervasive problem (that most people aren't thinking about) to voters in only such a short period of time?
When I joined the Kick the Can Telluride team I was not brought on because I was a sugar tax evangelist, in fact, I thought it was important to joke that all the best priests, bartenders and campaign managers were agnostic.
But as I dove headlong into the science behind the trends; the benefits of taxing sugary drinks to fund after-school programs; and the financial realities of our nation's obesity epidemic: I became ignited by this cause. Suddenly the campaign to tax sugary drinks felt like the mid-century fight against Big Tobacco: the science just as damning and the product in the cross-hairs just as entrenched in our culture.
By mid-October, when I left the campaign to give birth to our first child, the battle for votes was at fever pitch and I had become both personally and professional obsessed.
Obesity is never a child's fault and yet the consequences are theirs to live with! Looking at our sweet newborn I worried about her generation: saddled with all the trappings of an obesity epidemic. Simultaneously, I felt frustrated with my own peers: categorically apathetic.
Emo Overall and Bridget Taddonio, the architects of the ballot initiative, lifted a veil for me and for so many others when they launched their campaign to take action against childhood obesity.
And while we did not pass a tax on sugary drinks, the problem remains: Telluride is only three percentage points behind the Colorado childhood obesity average and our state has the second fastest growing rate in the nation. Kids and parents need help to fight against childhood obesity and its many causes.
I know we're not the kind of community that sits back and does nothing. So what is next?
I don't know the answer. But we do have a question. And for that, I'm so very grateful to Emo, Bridget and to everyone else who worked to illuminate this issue.
– Beth Kelly