Pear in mind: A blog in the public interest

CSPI “sat down” (virtually) with Sugar Free Kids Maryland to learn more about the organization's work building a healthier Maryland. This blog is the fourth in a series of posts highlighting our campaign partner organizations. 

Can you tell us a little bit about the communities you serve?

Sugar Free Kids Maryland is a diverse coalition working to protect Maryland children and their families from type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and tooth decay so they can live long, healthy lives. We work hard to serve all members of our diverse state that includes people with a wide array of incomes, opportunities, and backgrounds.

What are some of your key organizational accomplishments?

Sugar Free Kids Maryland has:

  • Led advocacy efforts to pass healthy kids’ policy in both Baltimore City (2018) and Prince George’s County (2020), making it easier for kids and their families to choose healthier options when dining in restaurants. At the time it was passed, Baltimore became the largest jurisdiction to pass such legislation and the first of its kind to be passed on the East Coast. Prince George’s County’s legislation was the first of its kind in the United States to offer healthier comprehensive options for both food and drinks.
  • Helped pass measures in seven jurisdictions across the state that increased healthy snack and drink options in vending machines in public parks and facilities (2015-2018).
  • Supported a statewide law requiring childcare facilities to serve healthy drinks to students, support breastfeeding mothers, and reduce screen time (2014).

What are you looking forward to most in this partnership with CSPI?

CSPI has always been a supportive partner of our initiatives. Our goals align tightly and we both want what’s best for our community’s children and families. CSPI has a vision for the future of health and understands what it takes to reach their goals.

Our colleagues at CSPI are always friendly to work with and incredibly responsive. The teamwork that we’ve experienced with CSPI has always been the best part of the journey we take to accomplish our goals.

What personal connections do you have to the organizational mission or vision?

Shawn McIntosh (Executive Director) and Andy Krauss (Director of Communications) are both lifetime residents of the state of Maryland. We care deeply about the health and future of our state. Being able to make a difference in Maryland’s communities gives us pride both personally and professionally.

How would you describe your team?

The Sugar Free Kids Maryland team is small, but impactful. Shawn McIntosh brings a venerable set of skills in terms of strategic planning and leadership with a strong background in policy, which has led to the team’s success. Andy Krauss has worked in communications for more than two decades and has brought recognition to Sugar Free Kids on local and national levels.

What really makes the team successful though is the strength of our coalition partners that we have been working with since day one. The collaboration of work with organizations from around the state is what truly has helped Sugar Free Kids Maryland succeed.

How are you centering strategies to engage and co-create with those most impacted by inequities?

Working towards equity has always been an important goal of our coalition. Maryland is a diverse state and includes people with a wide array of incomes, opportunities, and backgrounds. Not everyone has an equal opportunity to choose healthier options and live a healthier life. It is important for our coalition to give all Maryland children the opportunity to choose healthier options earlier in their lives so that they can continue those habits into adulthood and live long, healthy lives.

What’s the best way for people to get involved in your campaign or work?