The Healthy Beverage Zone (HBZ) Seeks to Make the Healthy Beverage Choice the Easy Choice for Bronx Residents

by Gabrielle Khalife
Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy Name: Healthy Beverage Zone (HBZ)


Bronx Borough, New York

Population: 1,471,160 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2017)


Since 2009, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation County Health Rankings, the Bronx has consistently ranked 62nd out of the 62 counties in New York State for poor health outcomes. Among the New York City boroughs, the Bronx also has the highest rates of sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption and obesity. In collaboration with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.’s #Not62 Campaign for a Healthy Bronx, the Union Community Health Center (UCHC) and Bronx Health REACH formed the Healthy Beverage Zone (HBZ), which employs evidence-based strategies to encourage and assist organizations interested in becoming a HBZ site by creating a supportive environment that promotes healthy beverage alternatives. Their long-term goal is to reduce the amount of SSBs consumed and reverse the burden of obesity and obesity-related chronic diseases among Bronx community members.

Progress to date:

In 2015, Dr. Vanessa Salcedo, Director of Health Promotion and current practicing pediatrician at UCHC, launched the SSB Free Zone at UCHC sites, encouraging staff to stop drinking sugary drinks and opt for healthier beverage options. This model was expanded through the collaboration with UCHC, Bronx Neighborhood Action Center, Bronx Health REACH and the #Not62 Campaign partners to form the HBZ. Prior to the launch in 2017, HBZ gained national recognition and was chosen as a finalist of Aetna’s Healthiest Cities and County Challenge.

Program/Policy Initiated:

April 18, 2017

Food policy category:

Preventative Health Care

Program goals:

To create an environment in the workplace that promotes healthy beverage options in an effort to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks and prevent obesity and obesity-related chronic diseases among those who work, live and visit the Bronx.

How it works:

There is an incentive for organizations to become HBZ CORE partners because good health is good for business. When businesses and employers invest in the health of their employees, there are lower healthcare costs, fewer sick days, and improved productivity, fueling future economic growth. Because so many Americans spend the majority of their day at work, the workplace is an ideal setting for promoting healthy beverage messages. By physically replacing SSBs with healthier beverage options, the HBZ works to create a supportive workplace environment where the healthy beverage choice is the easy choice.

There are five requirements for a worksite to be recognized as an HBZ CORE partner: (1) the organization’s leadership must be educated, involved and invested in promoting healthier beverages (2) an HBZ coordinator or liaison must be designated at the worksite (3) the worksite must complete the HBZ initial workplace tools, including the initial workplace contract form and the workplace observational tool (4) employees must complete the Beverage Consumption Baseline Survey (5) employees must be informed and engaged about why beverage choices matter.

There are three levels of HBZ partnership from which a workplace may choose, including the silver, gold and platinum champion partnership. All champion partners must adopt a healthy meeting policy and a healthy vending policy and must implement an HBZ education project. All champion partners must complete the Employee Beverage Consumption 6-month, 12-month, or 8-month and 12-month post-implementation survey to earn the silver, gold or platinum levels respectively. Gold champion partners must also complete two of the additional activities listed below, and platinum champions must complete five:

  1. Develop a Wellness Committee
  2. Implement a Corporate Social Responsibility platform and introduce an Employee Pledge
  3. Implement a Corporate Social Responsibility platform and lead by example
  4. Implement a Corporate Social Responsibility platform and phase out unhealthy beverage marketing
  5. Implement two additional Healthy Beverage Zone education projects
  6. Install new or replace existing water stations so that co-workers and visitors can refill water bottles

Why it is important:

SSBs are the leading source of added sugar in the American diet and are associated with weight gain, diet-related chronic diseases (type 2 diabetes and heart disease) and poor dental health. Among the NYC boroughs, the Bronx ranks highest for consumption of SSBs. In 2015 32.2 percent of Bronx residents reported consuming one or more SSBs per day as compared to 23.8 percent of residents across all boroughs. The Bronx also suffers from the highest rate of obesity among the NYC boroughs and is disproportionately affected by obesity-related chronic diseases. Obesity not only exacts a toll on the health of individuals but also results in  increased costs of health care and disability, increased employee absenteeism, and declining productivity.


In Fall 2017, 1,105 staff members across worksites in the Bronx participated in the Healthy Beverage Zone Baseline Survey for future evaluation.

Learn more:

Point of Contact:

Healthy Beverage Zone


Similar practices:

On July 1, 2015, The University of California, San Francisco, launched a Healthy Beverage Initiative in an effort to increase awareness of the detrimental effects of SSBs on health outcomes. Starting on July 1, the university began to eliminate the sales of SSBs from every store, food truck and vending machine on campus while phasing in zero-calorie beverages or non-sweetened drinks with nutritional value such as milk and 100 percent juice. To examine this workplace policy, researchers implemented a study of 214 of the school’s employees who were heavy consumers of SSBs. The study aims to evaluate the metabolic changes associated with lowered SSB intake as a result of the new workplace policy. While researchers are currently in the process of analyzing the data for future publication, the university reports a significant drop in SSB consumption on campus since the policy went into effect.


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