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Berkeley Passes ‘Healthy Checkout’ Bill, Clearing Junk Food From Checkout Aisles

Photo: David Tonelson // Shutterstock

The checkout aisle of grocery stores isn’t home to just a cash register; there’s also a variety of candies, chips, and sweets you can pick up. This front of store promotion is often where kids of all ages can get their sugar cravings satisfied, but also helps push and market junk food products.

If you could change the products available in the checkout aisle to be less caloric and sugar-laden, it might have an effect in helping combat obesity. The city of Berkeley is willing to give that a shot, as they became the first city to pass a “healthy checkout” bill.

The new law, as reported by the San Jose Mercury News, applies to grocery stores larger than 2,500 square feet. It restricts products available at the checkout stands to those with no more than 5 grams of added sugar or less than 250 milligrams of sodium per serving.

Junk food itself isn’t banned in these stores, and could be found in the regular candy, chips, or snacks sections. This law just takes that prime product placement section and has stores give better-for-you options a shot in that area.

Policymakers hope that the new ordinance helps redefine what “treating yourself” means when picking up convenient snacks on the way out of the store. Replacing candy bars and the like with better-for-you snack bars, fruits, nuts, and more could help encourage healthier snacking habits.

Berkeley is known for establishing precedent for laws involving nutrition and sustainability that get passed elsewhere. Their 2014 soda tax, for example, has led to similar actions in other parts of the United States.

How this law will change snacking habits, and whether it catches on nationwide, will be seen when it goes into effect in March 2021. Enforcement via health inspections will begin in 2022.

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Instagram-Famous ‘Mochi Muffins’ Shipping Nationwide For The First Time Ever

If you’re from or have been to the San Francisco Bay Area recently, you know that the hot sweet treat around there is the Mochi Muffin. Third Culture Bakery, the shop behind the viral and widespread treat, is now making their signature food available for purchase nationwide for the first time ever.

Owners Sam Butarbutar and Wenter Shyu have been growing the Third Culture Bakery brand, with a new bakeshop having opened a few weeks back in Colorado. With the coronavirus pandemic drastically affecting everyone, however, the company decided to expand their Mochi Muffin offering to nationwide masses yearning to get a taste.

As of press time, Third Culture is only selling their Original Mochi Muffin nationwide, rather than branching out into the other flavors they make for shipping just yet. Shyu told Foodbeast that their other flavors of the mochi muffins will be available for national delivery later this week. Folks who live within UberEats ranges for their Bay Area and Denver also have access to the showrooms’ full online menus.

The Original Mochi Muffins are sweet while nutty, with a base of rice flour and ingredients like sesame and pandan that add to their aroma. They’re also incredibly squishy, and might be the closest to an edible stress ball we’ll ever get to.

You can now find these Mochi Muffins for sale on Third Culture’s website in packs of either 6 or 12, alongside other items like Uji Ceremonial Matcha, rice flour totes, and other apparel. Shyu told Foodbeast that they’ve already shipped to 16 states so far.

Photos courtesy of Third Culture Bakery.

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Get These Cheesy Fried Balls of Carbonara In The Bay Area

When it comes to Italian street food, some of the most beloved are arancini and its close cousin, suppli. While essentially both are rounded balls of rice with fillings, the subtle differences can be found in suppli’s oblong shape as opposed to the roundness of arancini, and the ragu filling of arancini in comparison to suppli’s composition of mincemeat and/or chicken giblets and tomato sauce with the risotto.

That said, when the imagination of Pollara Pizzeria in Berkeley, CA was stretched, they came up with seemingly a cheesy pasta version of the two. Dubbed carbonara fritti, the deep-fried balls of cheese and pasta are also filled with guanciale (cured pork cheeks) and creamy carbonara sauce. It’s all a mouth-watering affair, especially when you picture the gloriously creamy pull, which makes for an even better experience.

Carbonara fritti is definitely doing everybody a service by making your favorite bowl of breakfast carbonara into a more snackable, on-the-go form.


Berkeley, California Named Best U.S. City For Coffee Lovers

If you’re a coffee addict who needs to get in your sips in order to function, there are a number of cities littered with coffee shops, making sure you get your fix.

While naming the best coffee city in America is subjective, Apartment Guide tried to incorporate a bit of research into their version of the best coffee city.

By their metrics, Berkeley, California is where coffee lovers should be residing.

Their study analyzed the number of coffee restaurants per resident, and Berkeley has one coffee spot per 2,073 residents, although that only equates to 59 total coffee shops in the city.

You’d think Seattle, Washington would be tops on any coffee list like this, but they actually came in 4th with 1 coffee shop per 2,308. Not a huge difference by that metric, but as far as total coffee shops, Seattle has way more in the city, with 314.

Believe it or not, you can take the total number of both cities, and they’d still come up short of San Francisco, California’s 385 total coffee establishments.




The top 10 on the list rounded out like so:
1. Berkeley, CA ( 1 per 2,073)
2. Vancouver, WA (1 per 2,224)
3. San Francisco, CA (1 per 2,297)
4. Seattle, WA (1 per 2,308)
5. Portland, OR (1 per 2,322)
6. Salt Lake City (1 per 2,387)
7. Minneapolis, MN (1 per 2,427)
8. Pittsburgh, PA (1 per 2,607)
9. Everett, WA (1 per 2,752)
10. Ann Arbor, MI (1 per 2,825)

If driving through a city that lacks coffee sounds like you’re living in a horror flick, find your way to one of these cities and keep yourself wired for life.

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Man Films Police Officer Taking Money From Berkeley Hot Dog Vendor

A University of California police officer was filmed taking money from the wallet of a Berkeley hot dog vendor, as he was citing the man for illegal vending. The video, posted on Facebook Sept. 9, has generated more than 10 million views and an outpouring of support, donations, and questions about the officer’s actions.

Thanks to some quick thinking and generosity, Martin Flores, the man who filmed the incident, also set up a GoFundMe account, “OfficialJustice4Juan&StreetVendors”  which surpassed its $10,000 goal within hours.

As Flores was taking his family to grab hot dogs after a Cal Bears game, he saw the officers citing the man now known as Juan, pulled out his phone, and started filming. Flores began questioning the officer about why he took the man’s money.

“You’re going to take his hard earned money,” rebuked Flores.

“Yup,” the officer responds.

“That’s not right, man,” Flores said to the officer. “People can drink on campus, during football games with no tickets, but a hard working man selling hot dogs, earning a living  gets his money taken away — and a ticket — wow!”

“He doesn’t have a permit,”  the officer replied. “Yup, this is law and order in action.”

However, it’s unclear if actually taking a civilian’s money is a standard protocol for police officers when citing food vendors. The East Bay Times reported that UCPD is, “investigating this weekend’s citation and apparent confiscation of money earned by a hot dog vendor on the University of California campus after a Golden Bears football game.”

By law, mobile food facilities must obtain a permit from the Alameda County Environmental Health website, but it’s unclear what agency actually enforces those permits on a day-to-day basis. Still, if Juan, or any other hot dog vendor in the city wanted to operate, there’s at least a $500 fee associated, according to Alameda County’s Environmental Health website.

This is just one instance in a larger battle street vendors face, and thankfully people like Flores exist, to help people like Juan, the Berkeley hot dog vendor, rebuild their lives after tragedy strikes.

Berkeley hot dog vendor

Martin Flores/Facebook

In just one day, Flores’ GoFundMe account received more than $30,000 in donations — and has already notified Juan. It would be cool to see that money go to help a few street vendors go legit, so everyone can enjoy delicious street food without fear of prosecution.

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U.S.’s First Sugar Tax Is Making Communities Healthier Without Losing Money

In 2014, Berkeley, California voted in Measure D, a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on the distribution of sugary beverages that was aimed at cutting soda and sweetened drinks’ sales down drastically. The aim was that it would improve health and nutrition in the area.

In a pleasant surprise, the sugar tax did way more than just that, according to a new study published in PLOS Medicine. Researchers analyzed over fifteen million checkout transactions across grocery stores in Berkeley and the surrounding areas to find that not only did sugary drink consumption fall by nearly 10%, but the sales of healthier beverages, like milk and tea, have increased in response. Bottled water sales shot up an impressive 15% in that time span.

The tax also raised over $1.4 million for local child nutrition and community health programs and decreased the demand for diet and energy drinks by 9%, meaning consumers in the city have become a lot more health conscious as a result of the sugar tax. Meanwhile, small business owners were not affected by the tax, as no measurable decrease in sales was detected.

The one downside to the tax is that sweetened soft drink sales in the surrounding sales did increase by seven percent, implying that some Berkeley residents who did want their Coke and Pepsi traveled outside of the city to avoid the tax.

Still, overall, the Berkeley tax has been extremely beneficial to the city. It’s made the city more health-conscious while keeping small businesses thriving and putting more money into city health and nutrition programs.

Sugar taxes have begun to pop up in several other cities too, and while not all of the effects in those areas have been measured, there’s clear evidence to show what works and what doesn’t. In Philadelphia, for example, sugar taxes of 1.5 cents per ounce have led to the loss of over 300 jobs after retailers reported a whopping 50 percent loss in soft beverage sales with nowhere near enough recovery in other areas to maintain jobs.

To detail, it could be that 1.5 cents per ounce is too high of a tax for a community to function. Many other Bay Area cities, including San Francisco and Albany, along with Cook County in Illinois have passed 1-cent-per-ounce taxes in recent months similar to those of Berkeley and haven’t reported any negative repercussions as of now.

Boulder, Colorado passed a much higher tax at 2 cents per ounce, but it’s still unclear as to whether that tax will be successful. Based on what happened in Philly and Berkeley, however, Boulder’s tax may be more harmful than helpful to the local community, while the other U.S. cities that followed Berkeley’s model are likely to have more success.

Based on the findings of the study, Berkeley’s sugar tax could be the blueprint model the rest of the nation follows when it comes to taxing sugar and cutting sweetened soft beverage sales since they’ve been able to do so without small businesses or the local community losing money. Considering sugar has been shown to be a leading cause factor of obesity (no matter what Coca-Cola says), that’s critical for a nation fighting a massive obesity crisis.