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Thursday, June 11, 2015

BMC applauded for best public service campaign in 2015

We wanted to share some good news... at the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) awards ceremony in New York last week, Brown·Miller Communications won the nation’s highest award for public relations, the Silver Anvil, for public service campaign.
And while that’s all pretty cool, what’s really exciting is that we won for the work we did with the California Center for Public Health Advocacy on Sugary Drink Warning Labels.
You have to appreciate that PRSA is a VERY pro-business organization. For them to bestow this on a program that attacks Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, Gatorade and other major beverages is a sea change and a real indication that, as Bob Dylan said, “The times, they are a-changin.” For that, kudos to all of our colleagues and friends who have played a role in changing community norms around sugary drinks –we all know it’s a long battle, and this is just one more indication that your work is having an impact.

Monday, April 27, 2015

When Well-Meaning Laws Go Bad

Yes – there is a problem with plastic bags. You see them floating in the water, along roadsides and even flying through the air at times. 

So some well-meaning person says, “We should make a law to ban the use of these plastic bags.” 

Everyone says, “Good idea,” and sets about to draft a law. 

Now here’s where things go wrong. Good laws can be written to help create innovation, increase employment and encourage commerce. Bad laws just tick people off, put people out of work and stifle commerce. The current California plastic bag law is one of those bad laws. 

Instead of outlawing all bags, the law should have just banned bags that didn’t degrade to nothing within 4 to 6 months. That would have pretty much meant that paper bags could still be used and surely would have spurred industry to develop a biodegradable plastic bag. 

And who knows what that new technology might have led to - perhaps other biodegradable containers like cans, bottles and boxes. Science and industry could have developed an entire new world of biodegradable containers that virtually cleaned themselves up after being used and discarded. 

But instead many of us opt to take our canvas sacks to the store, where the juice from a fresh chicken we purchase leaks out and soaks into the canvas. Then on our next trip to the store, that fresh fruit we buy picks up germs from the chicken juice, and our entire family is sickened. 

So I guess that after enough people get sickened in this manner, some other well-meaning person will get another law passed to create an agency to certify that the bags we take into the store are clean and safe to use. Each grocery store will have a state certified bag inspector at the entrance inspecting all the bags. Just imagine how many people that will employ - and cost us! 


Friday, April 10, 2015

School Is Changing What’s for Breakfast

What parent doesn’t want their children to do well at school? I know I do, and as a single mom, I do what I can to make sure they have what they need to start their day off right –  a good night’s rest, a warm shower and a good breakfast . Experts have said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Research in classrooms nationwide has shown that breakfast plays a critical role in a student’s ability to focus and that translates to better academic success.

I’m sold, but who am I kidding? Between the two children and despite my attempts to organize and plan, our mornings are hectic. Our morning start off with sleepy zombie-like creatures moving at a snail’s pace to get into the shower, and then with five minutes left to spare, we all rush out the door, grabbing bags, shoes and maybe an apple, then leaving their hot plates of food untouched. When I remind them to eat their breakfast, the common response is “But I’m not hungry!” I can’t be the only one with this morning scenario.

So, my attention perked up when I heard California introduced a bill that will make it easier to feed children breakfast, which in turn will help them improve their ability to learn. The way I see it, this is a win for the students, a win for the parents and a win for the school.

The bill will allow for breakfast to be served to students after the bell, unlike today when breakfast is served before school starts. I know when I went to school, more sleep always won in the battle of sleep vs. breakfast. With the passage of the Breakfast After the Bell bill, students will have the option to get breakfast at school during homeroom or long passing period.

I think it’s a great idea!  What do you think?

You can read more about this bill and its nuances at


Friday, March 27, 2015

Coke as a Healthy Snack . . . Really?

I recently read an article by Candice Choi, an AP food industry writer, about Coca-Cola hiring dieticians to put in a good word for their product. But obviously these paid hired guns go too far when they suggest that Coke, especially a mini-can, is a healthy treat. Healthy snacks are apples and bananas and whole-grain breads. Show me where a Coke has any nutritional value. As a child, I knew that soda was probably not good for you and to be consumed only as a rare “treat.” And that was back in the Dark Ages. Hopefully we’ve come a long way in educating consumers since then.

Evidently Coca-Cola pays these dieticians enough for them to leave their scruples behind. I don’t know how they can say that drinking sodas in portion-controlled sizes, like Coke’s mini-can, equates to providing a healthy snack. Not only does the mini-can provide the same amount of sugar per ounce as that of a regular-sized Coke but it also helps to line the producer’s pockets because these smaller cans cost the consumer more for less. Of course, that’s one way for the soda industry to recoup their losses because of the decline in sales in recent years.

Contrary to scientific evidence pointing to sugary drinks as being the main contributor to the obesity explosion in this country, some dieticians continue to deny that fact – for a price. They have their hands in the pockets of Big Soda, whether they admit it or not. Unethical . . . you bet.

Whatever happened to truth in advertising? Or is that just another pipe dream?


Thursday, March 19, 2015

It’s no cliché, breakfast is the most important meal of the day

As a kid, I constantly struggled to wake up each school day. Whether it was because of genes or a dysfunctional alarm clock, I just couldn't get out of bed at a reasonable time. As a result, I was consistently late to class. This is bad enough in and of itself, but it also provided one other major obstacle: I never ate a nutritious breakfast.

At my school, breakfast was served before class started. Naturally, this made it very difficult for a late riser like me to start the day out right. Most of the time, I would have to wait for hours until lunch while feeling hungry and distracted. If I was “lucky,” I’d have an unhealthy snack or sugary drink on the way to class.

Sometimes, it’s the simple things that matter the most. 

In California, three out of four students don’t eat breakfast at school. At least half of these children also don’t eat breakfast at home. This poses a major problem for millions of families – and the state’s education system as a whole – that has flown under the public’s radar for far too long.

Countless studies have shown that breakfast merits a major investment. A morning meal boosts academic achievement, cognitive performance, focus and emotional health. These factors add up to higher test scores, better grades and lower dropout rates. Breakfast also decreases disruptive behavior, creates an optimal learning environment and lowers the number of tardy, absent or suspended students.

Daily breakfast consumption even decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes and other poor health outcomes, so serving breakfast at school, after the school day starts, is a no brainer.

Luckily, two Bay Area lawmakers have joined together to fight for school breakfast. Assemblymembers Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond) recently introduced AB 1240, the Breakfast After the Bell Act. The bill, sponsored by California Food Policy Advocates, would require schools in low-income communities to serve breakfast after the bell. In schools with the highest need, breakfast would be made free of charge, thanks to existing federal funds.

Simple changes, like serving breakfast during homeroom or during a mid-morning break, can make breakfast a reality for over 4.2 million kids who miss out on the health and academic benefits of a daily school breakfast.

Learn more about the Breakfast After the Bell initiative at


Monday, March 9, 2015

Congratulations to Oakland, a city that leads the nation

I’m proud of my hometown. Oakland, CA., made important national news this week when the minimum wage was raised from $9 an hour to $12.25 on March 2nd. It’s still not enough money to afford an apartment, but it’s an important start.

Along with the increase in wages, another change is slowly beginning that also pleases me. Some trendsetting Oakland restaurants are beginning to adopt the European model of restaurant tipping.

I’m a good tipper – generally 20 percent or more – but it always bothers me to plop down the money because tipping is blatantly unfair. Why should a waiter in a good restaurant make hundreds of dollars a night in gratuities, much of it tax free, when the cooks, who do as much or more work, are limited to wages?

True, some restaurant waiters share tips, but not many.  

To compensate for the increase in minimum wage to $12.25, which will greatly benefit the servers who need it least, several of our favorite restaurants responded by eliminating tipping.

At the delicious farm-to-fork restaurant Homestead, for example, the gratuities are now figured in the menu price of all food and beverage items. At first glance the prices seem like sticker shock, but they aren’t when you consider that gratuities are no longer necessary. According to the Homestead menu, “As our prices now include service, we are able to pay all employees a living wage. This eliminates the need for a gratuity. Thank you.” 

Thank you, Homestead! I applaud the change and hope that all restaurants will follow your lead.    

~ Paula

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Senate Majority Leader Introduces Legislation Calling for Warning Labels on Sugary Drinks

In the wake of a growing movement to rein in sugary drink consumption and unprecedented evidence tying these beverages to California’s skyrocketing diabetes and obesity rates, Senate Majority Leader Bill Monning (D-Carmel) today introduced landmark legislation requiring safety warning labels on sugary drinks.
“Given the rock solid scientific evidence showing the dangers of sugary beverages, the state of California has a responsibility to inform consumers about products proven to be harmful to the public’s health,” stated Senator Monning. “As with tobacco and alcohol warnings, this legislation will give Californians the at-a-glance information they need to make healthier choices every day.”
SB 203 would require a simple warning on the front of beverage containers with added sweeteners that have 75 or more calories per 12 ounces. These beverages include sodas, sweet teas, sports drinks and energy drinks. The label, developed by a national panel of public health experts, would read: STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.
First introduced by Senator Monning as SB 1000 in last year’s legislative cycle, SB 203 is a response to voters’ growing concerns about the health impact of these beverages, especially among children. An estimated 14 percent of Californians have diabetes today, the highest rate in history. In just the past decade, pre-diabetes in US teens more than doubled from 9 to 23 percent, leading researchers to forecast that one in three children will develop type II diabetes as adults. In addition, over 60 percent of California’s adults and 40 percent of California’s children are overweight, making them more susceptible to heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and asthma.
“When you have medical professionals, public health officials and an overwhelming body of science all pointing to sugary drinks as the leading contributor to the skyrocketing diabetes epidemic, California must take action,” stated Dr. Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, which is sponsoring the legislation.
Complete information on the legislation, including fact sheets on the science linking sugary beverages to diabetes, obesity and tooth decay, is available at: