The Horizon Foundation and Sugar Free Kids Maryland have been named recipients of the 2018 National Forum for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Public Policy Award for work to reduce sugary drink consumption in Howard County and throughout the state of Maryland.
Presented at the Forum’s annual meeting on Oct. 24, the award annually recognizes individuals and organizations that have made exceptional contributions to heart disease and stroke prevention by effecting policy change on a national, state or local level.
Sugar Free Kids Maryland led advocacy efforts resulting in the passage of the Baltimore City Healthy Kids’ Meal Bill earlier this year. The bill makes healthy choices easier for families ordering drinks from kids’ menus in city restaurants by ensuring that water, milk, 100 percent fruit juice, sparkling water and flavored water without added sweeteners are the default drink options for all restaurants kids’ meals in the city of Baltimore.
The statewide coalition also helped pass measures in seven jurisdictions across the state that increased healthy snack and drink options in vending machines in public parks and facilities and passed a statewide law requiring childcare facilities to serve healthy drinks to students, support breastfeeding mothers and reduce screen time.
“Our coalition works every day to protect Maryland children from chronic disease,” said Shawn McIntosh, executive director of Sugar Free Kids Maryland. “We are proud of the work that we have done to make the healthy choice the easy choice in our state and are honored to share this award with our partners at the Horizon Foundation.”
The Horizon Foundation, a founding partner and lead organization of Sugar Free Kids Maryland, is the state’s largest independent health philanthropy. Among its initiatives, Horizon runs Howard County Unsweetened, a six-year-old community-wide policy and awareness campaign that led to a 20 percent decline in local soda sales. The results were recently documented in a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine. Locally, the Foundation and its partners worked to pass the state’s first healthy vending law and have worked with the county Board of Education to dramatically improve the school system’s wellness policy and school lunch program.
“People in Howard County are making healthier decisions than they were five years ago,” said Horizon Foundation President and CEO Nikki Highsmith Vernick. “We are proud to know that we have made that kind of impact on the health of our county. Thanks to the National Forum for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention for recognizing the work we are doing with Sugar Free Kids Maryland and the difference we have made. Together, we are changing the narrative on healthy drinking choices in Howard County and throughout the state.”