Illinois passes kids’ meal bill to make healthier beverages default options on restaurant kids’ menus

Slow Drip: Soda Declining on Kids’ Menus

Joint release by CSPI, Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity, and Illinois Public Health Institute

The Illinois legislature today passed legislation ensuring healthier beverages like water, milk and 100-percent juice are the automatic drinks with all restaurant kids’ meals rather than soda, lemonade, fruit punch, or other sugary drinks. The bill, now awaiting signature by Governor JB Pritzker, makes Illinois the fourth state to approve a healthy kids’ meal policy, joining California, Hawaii, and Delaware.

“This bill is an important step in addressing health inequities in our state,” said Illinois Representative Elizabeth Hernandez. “It ensures that all children have the same healthy options in their kids’ meals.”

The Illinois Public Health Institute (IPHI) in coordination with the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity (IAPO) and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) advocated for the legislation. Restaurants and communities should support parents’ efforts to feed their children healthy meals. One easy way to start is by offering healthy beverages as the default option on children's menu, the organizations said.

 “The passage of this legislation is an important step in ensuring a healthy future for our kids,” said Elissa Bassler, CEO of the Illinois Public Health Institute. “Sugary drinks negatively impact children’s weight, mood and behavior today, and increase the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes later in life, major health issues that disproportionately impact children of color in our communities.”

Research shows that some children as young as eight have detectable early warning signs of heart disease. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes in children is increasing and disproportionately affects children of color.

“The passage of the Illinois bill comes at the right time, as communities across the state are working to rebuild stronger and more resilient communities in response to the pandemic,” said Sara Ribakove, CSPI senior policy associate. “Illinois joins the national movement to stop restaurants from pushing unhealthy sugary drinks on children. This is an important step in helping children develop life-long healthy eating habits.”

The organizations would like to thank the Illinois bill sponsors Representative Elizabeth Hernandez, House Assistant Majority Leader; and Senator Mattie Hunter, Senate Majority Caucus Chair; as well as the rest of the Illinois General Assembly for their commitment to children’s health. They are also grateful to the tireless advocates throughout Illinois and elsewhere who worked to make this bill possible.