Checkout Stand Junk Food Banned From Large Grocery Stores in Berkeley

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A city in the East Bay wants to stop you from making unhealthy impulse buys just before you pay for your food. 

Berkeley is making history by becoming the first city in the country to ban junk food from supermarket checkout aisles. 

Cookies, candy, cans of soda. That’s what typically greets Lauren Crabb, and other Berkeley shoppers, when they’re at the checkout counter of a supermarket. 

“I spend a ton actually buying – I fall for the, ‘oh, I’ll just grab one candy as a treat,’” she said.  

On Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council approved the country’s first healthy checkout policy. Starting next year, large grocery stores in Berkeley will have to swap out candy and soda for healthier options like sugar-free gum, nuts or milk. 

The policy only applies to 25 stores in the city, including Safeway, CVS and Walgreens. Vice-Mayor Sophie Hahn says people will still be able to get their junk food fix – they’ll just have to walk more steps inside the store to get it.  

“Right now people have to search through the store to find the healthy choices and now they’ll have to search through the store for the unhealthy choices,” said Hahn.

Hahn says the policy is necessary because the pandemic has proved that people with underlying conditions like diabetes are more susceptible to COVID-19. 

“I’m a diabetic Type 2,” said A.J. Curtis of Berkeley. But he says there are bigger issues – like Berkeley’s homeless crisis – that deserve more attention, and action, from the city. 

“I feel like they should be focusing more on that than on the food we eat,” he said.

NBC Bay Area reached out to Safeway, Target and CVS for their take on Berkeley’s new policy, which goes into effect March of next year. CVS was the only one that got back, saying, "We are reviewing the latest ordinance, and are committed to providing healthy options for customers.” 

“It will be good for my wallet, it will be good for my health and It will mean I will get less harassment at the checkout from these two [her kids],” said Crabb. “All around, great news as a parent.”

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