Berkeley, California, is set to become the first city in the country to ban the sale of junk food in supermarket checkout aisles. In its place, stores will be required to "sell more nutritious food and beverage options in their checkout areas."
Beginning in March 2021, cookies, candy, chips and cans of soda will no longer be displayed near cash registers. Many Americans, like Berkeley shopper Lauren Crabb, can relate to the temptations these rows of colorful confections present when you're waiting in line at the grocery store.
“I spend a ton actually buying – I fall for the, ‘oh, I’ll just grab one candy as a treat,’” Crabb said.
The Berkeley City Council wants to help resident curb such impulse buys and on Sept. 22 approved a Healthy Checkout Ordinance. Starting next year, large grocery stores in Berkeley will have to swap out candy and soda for healthier options like sugar-free gum, nuts or milk.
The policy, which applies to stores that occupy 2,500 square feet or more of retail space, will only affect 25 stores in the city, including Safeway, CVS and Walgreens.
Vice-Mayor Sophie Hahn says people will still be able to get their junk food fix – they’ll just have to walk more steps inside the store to get it.
“Right now people have to search through the store to find the healthy choices and now they’ll have to search through the store for the unhealthy choices,” said Hahn.
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Hahn says the policy is necessary because the pandemic has proved that people with underlying conditions like diabetes are more susceptible to COVID-19.
But not all Berkeley residents agree. A.J. Curtis told NBC Bay Area there are bigger issues – like Berkeley’s homeless crisis – that deserve more attention, and action, from the city.
“I’m a diabetic Type 2,” said Curtis. “I feel like they should be focusing more on that than on the food we eat.”
NBC Bay Area reached out to Safeway, Target and CVS for comment on Berkeley’s new policy. CVS was the only retailer to respond, saying, "We are reviewing the latest ordinance, and are committed to providing healthy options for customers.”
“It will be good for my wallet, it will be good for my health and it will mean I will get less harassment at the checkout from [my kids],” said Crabb. “All around, great news as a parent.”