A demonstration about Bloomberg’s sugary-drink limits, in favor

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Minty Grover

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Approximately three dozen activists gathered on the steps of City Hall yesterday, on the eve of the Board of Health’s hearing on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to ban large sizes of sugary drinks within the city.

They were there to support the mayor’s plan, which has drawn national attention and which is proving, in the early going, to be a tough sell at home

“This is exactly the kind of thing we’re hoping to spur across the nation,” said Huehnergarth, a coordinator for National Food Day.

Huehnergarth joined an assortment of other health advocates and religious groups in defending the mayor’s proposal.

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Pastor Brian Carter, the president of a faith-based coalition put together by the Department of Health, was one of the principal organizers of the rally.

“Public officials have a responsibility to help to create an environment that creates good public health,” said Carter.

Carter’s coalition, the Borough of Brooklyn Ecumenical Advisory Group, includes religious institutions and leaders of all faiths, he said. They communicate regularly with the city Department of Health and work independently on their own health initiatives, according to Carter.

Carolyn Cohen, co-founder of a group called Food Fight, said the food and beverage industry hasn’t been responsible about the sizes of soft drinks they sell.

“I think it’s great that the mayor is taking on the food industry because they aren’t going to regulate themselves,” said Cohen at the rally. “I think it’s criminal that companies are allowed to sell toxic, nutritionally bankrupt, sometimes toxic food.”

United Way of New York City, an advocacy group for low-income families, said that the government has to get involved in the issue because of how heavily low-income families are affected by obesity and diabetes.

“When you’re talking about 5000 lives lost and $4 billion spent, I think there is a role for government to play,” said Alex Martinez, the organization’s chief of staff. “If you had 5000 deaths attributed to anything else, the government would have to intervene.”

“Sugar needs to be regulated like alcohol or tobacco,” said “fitness guru” Kathie Dolgin.

She said that the mayor’s proposal was an attempt not only to make people healthier, but to rein in health care costs.

“He’s not just a health nut,” said Dolgin, of Bloomberg. “He’s a businessman.”