Beverage Companies Offer 5 Million for City Wellness Programs

Chicago and San Antonio will potentially accept large grants from beverage companies hoping to avoid beverage bans.

Now, beverage companies are adding incentives to promote wellness.

The American Beverage Association is offering a $5 million grant to Chicago and San Antonio public-sector employees which will help fund their new “wellness competition.”

This competition is one of the latest efforts to fight obesity, where employees will be measured for appropriate weight and health levels. Beverage companies will also be rewarding individual prizes for employees who make the most improvements on their wellness profiles, with cash bonuses of up to $1,000. The criteria of judgment, though yet to be determined, may include weight loss, reduced blood pressure, and reduction or elimination of smoking.

The beverage companies are hoping that this move of support for health and wellness will forge partnerships with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. In uniting efforts with city government, the beverage companies look to eliminate threats of taxes on sugared beverages or bans on oversized beverages in the cities, hoping to subvert the measures already taken in New York. Susan Neely, president of the American Beverage Association, said that the new efforts at mutual support between beverage companies and city government “put the spotlight on ways to do things collaboratively.” Part of the new collaboration rests in the recently revealed calorie-conscious vending machines, which offer calorie counts in an effort to curb consumers’ over-consumption of sugary drinks. 

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Some, however, are concerned at the growing partnership between cities and industries, arguing that, in taking funding, the governments will become reliant upon or indebted to the beverage companies. Still, city officials promise to “tread lightly” in the new relationship, refusing to make any commitments to the companies that will damage the integrity of the governmental role.