FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PHILADELPHIA, May 5, 2016 — Weavers Way, the cooperative grocery in Northwest Philadelphia, has come out in favor of Mayor Kenney's proposal to tax sugary beverages sold in the city.
In a letter to City Council members, management of the Co-op called the 3-cents-an-ounce levy a justified "sin tax," citing health problems associated with obesity and the lack of nutritional value in the beverages involved.
"The evidence is compelling that ever-cheaper sugar and high-fructose corn syrup has supported an increase in soda consumption and contributed to a rise in obesity in the past 50 years," the letter said. ". . . Soda, sports drinks and sweetened iced tea are not staples. They are not nutritious, not good for us and barely even food."
Weavers Way, with annual revenues approaching $22 million at its locations in Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill, focuses on selling products that are healthy, wholesome, local and sustainable. But as a full-service grocery operation, Weavers Way does stock a variety of sweetened beverages and iced-tea drinks.
"This relatively small tax shouldn't discourage anyone from buying the products they want, and the money generated will be put to very good use," said Weavers Way General Manager Jon Roesser.
Purchasing Manager Norman Weiss said shoppers could easily switch to non-taxed beverages if the price made a difference — or pay extra for the luxury item that sugary sodas really are.
"It's not like people have to have these drinks — they buy them for pleasure," Weiss said. "There are plenty of healthy beverage choices. I don't think it will hurt our business."
Added Roesser, "I like soda, and we don't judge anyone who chooses to drink sugary beverages. But the daily consumption of large quantities of soda and other high-sugar drinks, especially by young people, is absolutely a public-health issue."
The director of the Co-op's affiliated nonprofit, Weavers Way Community Programs, also declared in favor of the tax, testifying at the May 4 City Council budget hearings.
WWCP Executive Director Jill Fink also owns a coffeeshop in Fairmount, and she told Council she firmly supports the levy despite its possible effect on her bottom line. "I opened a business to benefit my community, not to make money for myself at the expense of the health of my fellow residents," she said.
Fink also criticized "predatory and disingenuous" efforts to portray sugary drinks as run-of-the-mill groceries. "The beverage industry targets low-income communities with advertising promoting these products, the same communities who suffer disproportionately from the negative health outcomes associated with their consumption," she said.
About Weavers Way: With stores in Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill, the "Co-op" is member-owned, open to the public and committed to offering quality products that are local, sustainable and nutritious. For more information, visit www.weaversway.coop.
About Weavers Way Community Programs: WWCP's mission is to empower children, youth, and families to become healthy, strong, and informed through experiential activities centered on urban agriculture, nutrition and the cooperative economy. For more information, visit www.weaversway.coop/wwcp.