Friday, May 15, 2015

Montgomery County-funded health initiative to reward students with sugary Starbucks drinks

Healthy Montgomery, a Montgomery County Government initiative co-chaired by County Council President George Leventhal (D-At-Large) and largely funded by taxpayers, was chartered to "improve the health and well-being of Montgomery County residents." Among its primary stated goals are the reduction of diabetes and obesity.

So you might be surprised to find that Healthy Montgomery plans to reward county students with gift cards for sugary, fat-filled drinks at Starbucks.

County high school students are invited to a Healthy Montgomery-sponsored "community conversation" at Suburban Hospital on May 21, to "discuss what they think about health and the quality of life in Montgomery County." For attending, the event announcement says, the students will be rewarded with a free "$5 Starbucks drink card". They'll also get a Chipotle gift card.

The most popular Starbucks drinks are loaded with sugar, and are often high in fat, as well. Many have more grams of sugar than the often-demonized 12 oz. Coca-Cola. They certainly exceed the recommended daily intake of sugar.

Chipotle isn't exactly health food, either. The average order at Chipotle comes in at around 1,070 calories, 75% of the recommended daily intake of saturated fat, and a whopping nearly-2,400 milligrams of sodium.

This is not only hypocrisy at taxpayer expense, but absurd when one considers Council President Leventhal's longstanding crusade against fast food restaurants in the county.

In 2008, Leventhal was quoted as saying, "school policies should support parents, and not let junk-food marketers go around parents’ backs directly to young children." Yet, the Healthy Montgomery initiative he co-chairs is literally going around parents' backs, and delivering Starbucks and Chipotle marketing and food "directly to young children." "It’s incredible, the extent to which our kids are subjected to [fast food] advertising," Leventhal told an audience of students and parents in 2007.

Sure, you can absolutely order healthy food and drinks at Starbucks and Chipotle. But you can at McDonald's and Wendy's, as well. Leventhal memorably took a publicity stunt trip to Wendy's, remarking on the nutritional content of the Baconator. He didn't mention that Wendy's also offers a line of salads and baked potatoes that are far healthier than the average Starbucks or Chipotle order.

The county just added new taxes on electronic cigarettes and Airbnb. And as Bill Turque writes in the Washington Post, the just-approved County budget increases spending by about $90 million, and your property tax bill "will tick upward slightly." A new property tax increase is being floated for next year's budget. And a majority of the Council voted to keep the Energy Tax the same, despite having promised to eliminate the massive increase it passed in 2010 in 2012. They lied to taxpayers. Period.

It's amazing that residents will be paying more and new taxes, under a new county budget that is bigger than last year's, and yet there is somehow money left for escapades such as this.


Anonymous said...

I guess Dyer needed a righteous-outrage adrenaline rush to get him going on a Friday morning.

What tiny fraction of Montgomery County's $5 billion budget went to fund this? And does Dyer not realize that you can get coffee or tea without any sugar or fat at all at Starbucks? Is there really any comparison between this one-time offer and the crap food that he regularly promotes in his videos?

Does he think that Mayor Bloomberg "demonized" 12 oz. cans of Coke?

Anonymous said...

6:10 AM that dog doesn't hunt.
Using that logic, they should give McDonald's gift cards since you can buy salads and water there.

Robert Dyer said...

6:10: How many young people would buy those healthy options at Starbucks, vs. the sugary lattes and fraps I see most people going out the door with when I'm there?

It doesn't bother me at all. The point is that this is supposed to be a health initiative. And Mr. Leventhal criticized fast food and junk food for marketing directly to kids - which the committee he co-chairs is now doing themselves with this event.

Did you even read the whole article? How can you not get the total hypocrisy, and waste of taxpayer money this is?

What fraction of the budget would this represent in sandwiches or clothing for the homeless? Think about it.

Robert Dyer said...

6:14: Yeah, or why not a gift card to Puree Juice at Bethesda Row or a local farmers market for fresh vegetables? That would be consistent with their stated agenda.

Anonymous said...

"What fraction of the budget would this represent in sandwiches or clothing for the homeless? Think about it."

This is Dyer in a nutshell right here. Total keyboard jockey who doesn't understand that sandwiches and clothing aren't what homeless people need, but instead mental health and addiction counseling plus housing aid. Thank god he'll never be elected to council

Anonymous said...

"your property tax bill 'will tick upward slightly.'" The property tax rate is FALLING this year from 99.6 cents per $100 of assessed value to 98.7 cents. How is that not a good thing? Yes, the average person will pay a few dollars more, total, but that's because the value of their houses is increasing. Are you seriously trying to blame the County for people's houses being worth more? How is that not a good thing?

"County budget increases spending by about $90 million"

Which is a VERY conservative 1.4% - doesn't even keep up with inflation and population growth. It's odd that you're trying to imply that's a large increase by using the dollar amount w/o any context. It's clear you're trying to mislead people.

Anonymous said...

7:40 AM Dyer is "misleading" by stating facts? Help me understand that.

Why attack Dyer because he's reporting facts that you don't like? Classic example of attacking the messenger.

Anonymous said...

@ 8:15 AM - Your reading comprehension sucks.

Anonymous said...

7:34 AM Yes, there are homeless that need counseling, but the surge in MoCo homeless has been attributed to more homeless families in Montgomery County. It's a bad economy for these folks more than drink.

Anonymous said...

Often times things like this are donated by the companies. That might be the case here?

Robert Dyer said...

7:34: The current Council has been so successful, that the latest count shows many MORE homeless in MoCo than last year. But I'm sure readers appreciate your attempt at political spin control.

Robert Dyer said...

7:40: It is you who is trying to mislead people. Property tax bills will indeed rise. The rate itself was reduced for that reason, so they didn't go over the cap.

The budget did not increase by 1.4% - that's what Leggett's more conservative request was. Instead, it increased by 1.7%, as reported by the Post. $90 M is not "a large increase"?!

Robert Dyer said...

8:22: No, 8:15 was absolutely correct, as was I.

Robert Dyer said...

8:32: Even assuming they were, it runs directly contrary to Mr. Leventhal's statements about marketing fast food directly to children. His group is "going around parents" to market Starbucks and Chipotle directly to kids.

Anonymous said...

"His group is 'going around parents' to market Starbucks and Chipotle directly to kids."

Nope. The invitation is to high school students. Even your article states that.

"$90 M is not 'a large increase'?!"

It's not if it's viewed in its proper context - relating to the expenses of running a County government for 1 million citizens. But please keep the hysteria coming.

"8:22: No, 8:15 was absolutely correct, as was I."

Stomping your foot twice as hard doesn't magically make it true. LOL

Robert Dyer said...

3:26: High school students are not minors? Your argument gets weaker with every comment. $90M is indeed a huge amount of money in any calculation. Leventhal better call in backup, as you're not helping him much.

Anonymous said...

It's legal to sell coffee to teenagers. Sorry to burst your bubble.

Robert Dyer said...

5:09: What an idiotic, off topic response. It's also legal to sell McDonald's, Kellogg's and Coca-cola to kids. The hypocrisy is that Mr. Leventhal criticized their marketing to children, while his group is doing exactly the same thing. At least McDonald's doesn't use taxpayer money in its marketing!

Anonymous said...

So, did you make any attempt to find out what the County actually spent on this, if anything? Most likely nothing, as 8:32 AM says.

Robert Dyer said...

7:48: The initiative is primarily funded by taxpayers. And they are directly marketing junk food to kids. Do you consider this a good thing, and not hypocritical to the founding statements of this steering committee?

Steve D. said...

"Anonymous said...
It's legal to sell coffee to teenagers. Sorry to burst your bubble.

5:09 PM"

It's legal to sell them Big Macs too, but that doesn't make it healthy.

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