Statement: Executive Director, Lucy Martinez-Sullivan, Speaks at DC Public Hearing
Good morning. My name is Lucy Martinez Sullivan. I am a resident of Washington D.C. and the Executive Director of Feed the Truth—a Washington D.C. based nonprofit organization that tracks and challenges the political power of the food industry and their efforts to put private profit above public health.
I want to thank Councilmembers Nadeau, Cheh, Allen, Bonds, Silverman, and Chairman Mendelson and all the community groups who have helped bring about the Nutrition Equity Amendment Act of 2021. The leadership and courage you have shown in standing up to the deep pockets, lies and the bullying of the $1.5 trillion dollar a year soda industry is truly remarkable. The Nutrition Equity Amendment Act cannot come at a more critical time. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and other global corporate giants are polluting our communities with an onslaught of sugary beverages and they have stepped up their efforts during this deadly pandemic. But these corporations are also polluting our democracy with the millions they spend every year on lobbying, influencing elections and blocking policy measures, like this one, that protect public health and promote greater equity.
Corporate money buys influence and friends. It buys groups like the Alliance for an Affordable DC. You won’t find much information about who is behind Affordable DC or who is funding them, except for the small print at the bottom of their homepage acknowledging they are a creation of the American Beverage Association. My organization, Feed the Truth, exposed the deep-pocketed American Beverage Association as one of the biggest spenders on lobbying and on political campaign donations—including donating to the campaigns of members of Congress who voted to overturn the results of the presidential election.
And who is behind the American Beverage Association? None other than Coca-Cola, Pepsi and other soda giants. Coca-Cola and Pepsi can tweet that “Black Lives Matter” and spend heavily on PR and CSR to try to convince us that they are champions of racial equality. But their actions say otherwise. They spend millions on marketing to push their addictive sugary poison onto the Black community—a community suffering disproportionately from diet-related disease which is helping to drive a COVID death rate for Blacks which is 2x the rate of death for whites. They spend millions through groups like the American Beverage Association to push disinformation campaigns and mobilize front groups to block taxes on soda which would generate much needed revenue for cash-strapped cities and underserved communities.
Don’t believe the lies Big Soda is telling us about local businesses getting hurt as a result of the Nutrition Equity Amendment. It’s not the bottom lines of local DC restaurants and stores that these huge multinational corporations care about, it’s their own bottom lines. Because the truth is that Coke and Pepsi and other corporate giants hate soda taxes because they are an existential threat to their business. Why? Because they work. They drive down consumption of a product that is costing us billions each year in health care costs.
Councilmembers, make no mistake–the more the residents of cities like Washington D.C. try to exert their local democratic control and stand up to the Big Soda bullies, the harder these global corporations and the shadowy groups that do their dirty work for them will fight back. We cannot continue to let huge multinational corporations run the show in Washington D.C. We can’t let them continue to undermine the health of our communities and deepen the racial disparities that plague our city. And we cannot continue to use their political clout, deep pockets and clever lies to block critical policies like this one and undermine our democracy. The Nutrition Equity Amendment Act is a chance to put a stop to all that. D.C is counting on you and the world is watching.