Healthy Beverages Become Default Option in Kids’ Meals in Philadelphia, PA

by Deirdre Appel
Healthy Kids’ Meal Legislation

Policy Name: Healthy Kids’ Meal Legislation in Philadelphia, PA

Overview: On October 3, 2019, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed legislation mandating that all restaurants serving kids’ meals must offer a healthy beverage (i.e. water, milk, or 100 percent fruit juice) as the default option, rather than sugar-sweetened fruit drinks or sodas.

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Population: 1.58 million

Food Policy category: Diet and Nutrition

Program goals:  To reduce children’s sugar intake by discouraging sugary beverage options served with kids’ meals in Philadelphia restaurants.

How it works: When a child orders a kid’s meal, the server must offer the child water, nonfat or low-fat milk, or 100 percent  juice as their beverage choices. If the child asks for a sugary drink instead, the restaurant will still be allowed to serve it. 

Progress to date: The bill was introduced by Councilwoman Reynolds Brown on June 6, 2019, passed by the City Council on September 26, and signed by Mayor Jim Kenney on October 3. 

Why it is important: Drinking beverages made with added sugar or other sweeteners has been linked to weight gain, obesity, and other health complications including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, in both children and adults. Sugary beverages are the primary source of added sugar in most children’s diets. A 12-ounce serving of soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar, and at least 50 percent of school-aged children drink one or more cans of soda per day. Children who drink sugar-sweetened beverages are also at a higher risk of getting cavities. Additionally, when sugary drinks are consumed instead of milk, calcium levels are lowered and the risk of bone fractures increases.  

In Philadelphia, approximately 41 percent of children aged 6 to 17 are overweight or obese. Encouraging healthier drink options for children in restaurants is an important step in fighting childhood obesity and other associated health complications. 

Program/Policy Initiated: Legislation was signed on October 3, 2019. 

Point of contact:  n/a

Similar Practices: A number of cities and states have enacted similar legislation regarding healthier default beverage options in kids’ meals, including: 

  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • California
  • New York City, New York
  • Wilmington, Delaware
  • Louisville, Kentucky
  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • Lafayette, Colorad0

Several restaurant chains including McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Arby’s, Subway, and Panera have voluntarily removed sugary drinks from kids’ menus.  

Evaluation: No evaluation has been completed to date, as the legislation is still quite new. 

Learn more:



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