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The Sweet Spot: Leveraging the SF Soda Tax to Advance Health Equity

Thursday, June 20, 2019 -
2:00pm to 4:30pm PDT
Northern California Grantmakers
160 Spear Street, Suite 360 | San Francisco, CA 94105
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Join the Shape Up SF Coalition and NCG's Bay Area Health Funders Group for a conversation with nonprofits and funders to strategize how San Francisco can be a leader in health equity and healthy eating active living programs by further supporting agencies who will likely be applying for funding through the Sugary Drinks Distributor Tax.

This new stream of funding presents a unique opportunity to make significant strides in achieving health equity for the communities most targeted by the industry and burdened by related chronic diseases. In town hall meetings across San Francisco, and in the recent community health needs assessment, residents called for more healthy eating and active living programs. The consistent funding from this tax will allow community based nonprofits to strengthen and expand these types of programs and have a positive impact on persistent health disparities in San Francisco.

While the new public funds offer new opportunities to support healthy eating/active living, private philanthropy can also play an important role to ensure that the nonprofits implementing them are set up for success. Capacity building support can help nonprofits develop new and strengthen existing high quality programs for residents, and continue their engagement in policy and systems change work that can impact the root causes of health inequities. San Francisco, and other Bay Area cities, are leaders in the movement to address the rising rates of chronic disease in their communities by taxing sugary drinks. Success in the Bay Area can serve as a model and help make the case for a statewide effort to tax sugary drinks.  

Join us to: 

  • Create a shared understanding of HEAL work, and how to overcome funding and implementation barriers;
  • Gain understanding of innovative funding models, and how to creatively support capacity building for nonprofits; and
  • Identify partnership opportunities to ensure successful implementation of soda tax, and support statewide soda tax policy efforts.


Tomás J. Aragón, MD, DrPH, Health Officer, City & County of San Francisco Director, Population Health Division
Dr. Aragon is the health officer of the City & County of San Francisco, and director of the Population Health Division (PHD) at the San Francisco Department of Public Health. Striving to embody and promote the universal values of humility, compassion, equity and dignity, he works to convene, connect, and catalyze communities and institutions to transform narratives, policies, and systems toward a sustainable culture of equity, healing and health for all people and our planet. As health officer, he exercises leadership and legal authority to protect and promote equity and health. As PHD director, he directs public health services. He teaches population health data science (with R) at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and he maintains a public health blog with a focus on population health equity, leadership, lean, and data science.

Pedro Arista, Program Officer, Hirsch & Associates Philanthropic Advisors
Pedro has dedicated his career to strengthening the most impactful cross-sector collaborations and community-based organizations in California and across the U.S. At Hirsch & Associates, Pedro evaluates the best and brightest cross-sector initiatives working on improving equity in the Bay Area and partners with them to achieve lasting success. Prior to his current role, Pedro led the healthy eating and active living portfolio of grantmaking initiatives for the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum.  To improve social determinants of health, he directed more than $3.2 million to 20 outstanding community-based organizations while boosting their effectiveness with culturally relevant capacity support. He holds an M.P.H. from San Francisco State University, where he also serves as faculty in the Department of Health Education, teaching courses on health policy and equity.


Vanessa Bohm, Director of Family Wellness & Health Promotions Programs, CARECEN
Vanessa Bohm is the director of CARECEN SF’s Family Wellness and Health Promotion programs. She was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area by immigrant parents and brings to our organization a deep commitment to working with Latino immigrants and other marginalized communities. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and an M.A. in Ethnic Studies. Through her work she has developed an expertise in youth and family support services and community health worker (promotora) models to address health disparities in the Latino community. She has used her knowledge and experience to develop staff capacity, enhance program activities, and build partnerships that more effectively advocate, support, and improve the health and wellbeing of those we serve.
Christina Engel, Program Director, Ken Birdwell Foundation

Christina has dedicated her career to creating platforms for emergent leadership, community, and creativity. As Managing Director of the Ken Birdwell Foundation (KBF) - a private foundation providing long-term capacity building grants - she is tasked with building and overseeing a grantmaking system that puts local equity, transparency, and long-term sustainability at its center. Whether she's working with youth through performing arts programs or with emerging technology leaders, Christina is passionate about contributing to scalable systems designed to accelerate local leadership and self-empowerment. On the weekends, you might find her scooping the Alameda Antiques Fair, catching a local show, or relaxing in one of San Francisco's many parks. She holds degrees in Art History and Anthropology from the University of Washington. 


Rhodora Ursua, Director of Programs, Alameda Health Consortium
At the Alameda Health Consortium, Rhodora oversees programs focusing on oral health, HIV treatment, and whole person care, with a focus on capacity building for the Consortium’s member community health centers across Alameda County.  Prior to joining the Consortium, she administered community health initiatives for more than 15 years, including the implementation of local healthy eating and active living programs in New York City and Jersey City led by community health workers.  During her time at a national social justice organization, she and her team helped strengthen the capacity of Asian and Pacific Islander-serving organizations doing impactful HEAL and tobacco control work funded by federal national network grants. She received her Master’s degree in Public Health from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health with a focus on Population Health.

Shane Valentine, Corporate and Community Impact Director, American Heart Association (Moderator)
Shane has been at the American Heart Association for the past 8 years when he started as a volunteer chef activist and created the Kids/Teens Cook with Heart program and piloted it at the Galileo Health Academy High School.  This program is a life skill based multipart series tied to science class.  It has been implemented in over 125 schools across 5 western states.  Shane’s current role is to work with school districts across the Bay Area, including SFUSD, to address the social determinates of health to improve health outcomes for our youth especially those in underrepresented communities.  Shane has created of HS programs like the Youth Health Equity Council and Women’s Health Tech Forum which are designed to engage youth in the issues of inequity, health disparities and give them the training to move towards PSE changes.  Shane also is the author of the Baby Cuisine Cookbook. 

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