Opinion: With junk food removed from checkout lanes, I can finally say ‘yes’ to my kid

Large stores in Berkeley can no longer place candy at the checkout line but instead must offer healthy alternatives such as fruit, vegetables, and nuts.

I am looking forward to taking my daughter grocery shopping again because I don’t have to stress out about getting through the checkout lane.

Last September Berkeley became the first city in the country to pass a policy to remove junk food in the checkout lanes, and we are proud of this victory.

Under the policy, retail stores larger than 2,500 square feet need to exclude soda and candy from the checkout aisle in favor of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, dairy, whole grains, and chewing gum and mints with no added sugars. Beverages in the checkout aisle must have no added sugars and no artificial sweeteners. The policy took effect on March 1.

While the policy has raised some eyebrows, it is a welcome move for parents and residents. It is really personal for me as a parent who has lived in Berkeley for about 30 years. My mother died of diabetes in her early 50s, and I am determined to help my 11-year-old daughter develop a lifetime of healthier eating habits. The healthy checkout policy is right on time and is very well needed.


The problems that we are facing today in our neighborhoods are that they are becoming more severe and unbearable. From health problems to social-economic issues and predatory marketing, parents don’t stand a chance against the candy calling and soda singing to our kids when we check out.  Make no mistake, these products are placed in checkout lanes because food companies pay premium prices to market their products there. Yet it hurts many families who are not able to stand up and say no while trying to mentally survive shopping.

Healthy checkout aisles will offer parents more opportunities to say yes to their kids and to change what we consider to be a treat. As a health advocate, I have listened to many Berkeley parents of color disclose that their kids are addicted to sugary treats, exacerbated by the predatory marketing that targets them when they shop.  These parents were worried because they were seeing a rise in diabetes in their community and wanted help with getting their children healthy.

Statistically and according to the city’s health report, in Berkeley, African American residents are four times more likely than white residents to be diagnosed with diabetes and 14 times more likely to be hospitalized due to the illness. Nationwide, diabetes is on the rise.

Personally, when my daughter and I shopped, we became tempted to purchase items that were unhealthy and weren’t needed, especially when I was tired and wanted to do something nice for her. However, when I left the store with those unplanned high-calorie drinks and sugary items, I regretted it.

What I ask for and deserve is to have a good time shopping with my child.

What I do not deserve is a fight with my child over these sugary items that she says are “calling her” while we wait in line.  What we as Berkeley residents are doing is providing others an opportunity to breathe when they check out at the grocery store. What we want less of is the corporate companies micro aggressively bullying us into what they believe we need to live.

Monique Blodgett is a health advocate, photographer and mother