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Food Column : Removal of soda from kids' menus spurs no backlash

IHOP and Applebee’s are the latest national chains to remove soda from children’s menus because of a campaign by the advocacy group Moms Rising.

The campaign launched in 2014, and fast-food giants McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Dairy Queen had already signed on, along with fast-casual chains Panera, Chipotle and Subway.

But will this reduce the actual amount of soda that passes through kids’ lips? The jury is still out.

David Ravindran, assistant manager of IHOP in Squirrel Hill, said the children’s placemat-style menus no longer list soda as a beverage option, but that he hadn’t even noticed the change, and he had “no idea” whether the change had resulted in any reduction in children’s soda orders.

Dairy Queen, on the other hand, has implemented the change more strictly. Lori Gabarre, manager of the South Side Dairy Queen, said children’s meals since Jan. 1 have been available only with milk or bottled water, and that most kids order milk. Children used to be able to upgrade their drinks to an Arctic Rush (a slush drink) or milkshake, but that option has been eliminated. Now, if they want soda, they would have to pay for a separate drink.

“I haven’t had anybody complain” about the changes, Ms. Gabarre said.

Monifa Bandele, Moms Rising’s senior campaign director for childhood nutrition, said removing soda from kids’ menus is mainly about the message: “It sends a message that it’s not a healthy beverage for kids,” she said.

Before targeting restaurants, Moms Rising (momsrising.org) targeted removal of soda from school vending machines. At first, it seemed like an uphill battle; now soda is almost uniformly unavailable in schools, she said.

She believes removing soda from kids’ menus won’t be a hard sell for restaurant chains now that several have signed on. In fact, she said her organization is already setting its sights elsewhere, lobbying for more whole grains, more fruits and vegetables, and healthier options overall on restaurant kids’ menus.


Winter Beer Festival: Live music, brews and food. Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at Trax Farms, Finleyville. $15 in advance; $20 at the door. traxfarms.com.

Iceoplex and BLVD Craft Fair and Brew Fest: Craft beers and craft vendors. 2 to 8 p.m. Feb. 6 at Iceoplex at Southpointe, Canonsburg. Also hosted by BLVD Pub and Kitchen. Free admission. iceoplexatsouthpointe.com.

Lunar New Year Kick-Off Celebration: Live dance and music performances; demos of origami, dumpling making and calligraphy children’s activities; food for purchase. 1 to 5 p.m. Feb. 6 at the Jewish Community Center, Squirrel Hill. uncoversquirrelhill.com.

Celeb spotting

Brunch with Beekman 1802: Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, stars of the Cooking Channel’s “The Fabulous Beekman Boys,” sign copies of their new book, “Beekman 1802 Style: The Attraction of Opposites.” 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 6 at The Fairmont Pittsburgh, Downtown. Brunch may be ordered a la carte. For information, check the Beekman 1802 Boys page on Facebook (click “Events”).

Charitable efforts

Wine and Dine for Ward Home: Five-course meal and wine pairing on Fat Tuesday. 6 p.m. Feb. 9 at Soba, Shadyside. $100; proceeds provide life-skills training to at-risk teens and young adults. Tickets: 412-722-1404, ext. 236.

Seed donations: The Rosalinda Sauro Sirianni Garden, a program of North Hills Community Outreach, is accepting donations of organic seeds. Lettuce, beet, chard, kale, turnip and radish seeds are most needed, along with onion sets and seed potatoes. Individuals who can volunteer to grow seedlings are also needed. The garden supports NHCO’s three food pantries. Seeds may be mailed to NHCO, 1975 Ferguson Road, Allison Park, PA 15101 or dropped off at NHCO. nhco.org or 412-307-0069, ext. 3311.

Out of town

Comfort Food Cruise: Hocking Hills, Ohio, offers food tours featuring one comfort food at each of 13 restaurants, such as biscuits and gravy at Pearl’s Diner, prime-rib sliders at the Boot Factory Grill, meaty mac ’n’ cheese at the Hocking Hills Dining Lodge, and ice cream at Sandy Sue’s Silver Diner. Cruise dates are Jan. 30-31 and Feb. 6-7. Tickets for the self-driving tours are $18 per person. explorehockinghills.com.

Farming for the Future Conference: Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s annual winter conference includes more than 100 workshops, a trade show, social hour receptions and meals featuring locally sourced ingredients, and Future Farmers program for children in kindergarten through eighth grade. Feb. 3-6 at The Penn Stater Conference Center in State College. pasafarming.org/conference.

Rebecca Sodergren: pgfoodevents@hotmail.com or on Twitter @pgfoodevents.