There are small steps that are giant leaps

Nefer (Nefertiti Kelley Farias)
3 min readSep 25, 2020
Have a whole apple or slices of apples with honey or peanut butter.

As a mother, Berkeley resident, and Public Health advocate I am proud to say that we successfully won what feels like a major battle against corporations and their junk food that is undermining our community’s health, especially the health of our children. We celebrate Healthy Checkout as a step on our journey to our healthier diets and well-being.

For the past two years we have been working with youth and young adults in Berkeley advocating for the creation of the Berkeley Healthy Checkout Ordinance which passed unanimously at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

It is vital for us to think global and act local and we all must continue to reflect, discuss and improve policies that affect us all, specially at home. We did this for the future of our children and the health of our black and indigenous and our underserved populations. It is no coincidence that big corporations pay to have these addictive products placed in checkout lanes. There are detailed marketing studies and carefully designed strategies that create brand recognition and lure our youngest customers to sugar addiction. Having our children exposed time and again, they will crave, even if the answer to the plea is no.

Oh, so many times I have witnessed kids begging their parent for a provocatively attractive brightly colored candy that was insidiously placed at their eye level, making for a forceful temptation. When I first considered working on this project I remembered one of the things that moved me deeply was when I understood that, for low income families, that moment in the checkout aisle was often one of the few moments where they could say yes to their kids requests. They couldn’t say yes to the expensive summer camp, or school trips, or a pet to care for, or that new pair of Jordans… but they could say yes to the cheap bag of chips or the sugary sack from the checkout lane.

Just the thought of having that sweet flavor in their mouth for a blissful moment could, perhaps help them forget the denied wishes of the past. Their young blurred minds unconscious of the sharp blood sugar spike and its impending fall, the inevitable harm to their health as the candy acts as a drug, their brains awaiting the next evanescent spike.

Having affordable healthier snacks would not only allow to acquiesce to that pleasurable crave but would provide parents more opportunities to say yes to their kids, this time promoting foods which will help kids develop healthy snacking habits

One wonders how the junk food and sugary beverage industry continues to grow, when the evidence is clear, that these products undermine our health. It is critical for us to understand the power we hold as consumers, and the responsibility we have to say, “no more”.

While we are now trying to cope with the global COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot ignore the silent and seemingly innocuous pandemics of obesity and diabetes, which pose a great threat to the health of our community and which we have been suffering due predominantly to diets based on processed foods high in sugar, sodium, saturated fat and additives. The consequences in our own and our children’s health are dramatic and make us more vulnerable to severe health consequences from COIVD-19 and likely other potential pandemics in the future.

This pandemic has made many of us realize the importance of physical, psychological and social health and well-being, and their interconnectedness.

Deep inside many of us have always thought another world could be possible and believe we must take small steps and the occasional great leap to see that world through to fruition; with healthy checkout we leap. But we can’t go it alone; this work is a collective effort because it is only, as my colleague Holly Scheider signs, “together change can happen.”