It's time to take a stand and tell Congress to stay out of our grocery cart and family budgets as they go about the important task of reforming health care. On Friday, a group of individuals, families and businesses formally announced a coalition called Americans Against Food Taxes.

The goal of the coalition is to stave off attempts to impose discriminatory and regressive taxes on juice drinks, soft drinks and, ultimately, other food products; as well as to educate policy-makers and the public that taxes don't make anyone healthy - education, exercise and balanced diets do that.

So far, some 110 organizations have joined the coalition, and as of this morning more than 21,000 individuals had signed up as well. Clearly our colleagues in other grocery and food industries, as well as the public, worry about the slippery slope a tax on juice drinks and soda would create. Once Congress reaches into the grocery basket, where will they stop in taxing food products to pay for whatever spending whim they have?

Go to the Web site - - to learn more and sign our petition. Tell Congress to stay out of your grocery basket and pursue more meaningful ways to health care reform.

Look, we're all optimistic, well, perhaps hopeful is the better word, that the economy needs to turn around sometime soon here. But the reality is it's not. We still have major job losses reported every month. News of wages declining come every month, too. And the housing market is still a precarious one.

In short, people are struggling to hold onto their homes and jobs, with those jobs, their health insurance. And in doing so, they're working hard to make ends meet by making every penny, nickel and dime count - for in this economy all this change adds up to real money.

This summer the "in" thing is the "stay-cation." People can't afford extras. Congress needs to take the not-so-subtle hints from families and remember those promises from the past campaign not to raise taxes on the middle class.

Therefore, as Congress works on health care reform legislation - an important and worthy endeavor - we need them to focus on meaningful and sustainable solutions to this complex problem. And we need them to stay out of our grocery baskets. First, we're not going to solve the complexities of health care reform with a tax on soda pop. Most importantly, in an economy like this, the last thing we should be doing is raising taxes on hard-working families.

The governors of New York and Maine recently tried to impose major tax hikes on juice drinks and soda, but their efforts were strongly rebuked by the people of those states. The public couldn't believe their lawmakers would raise taxes on them during such tough times. And people simply view it as an over-reach when government uses the tax code to tell them what to eat or drink.

So, again, check out the Americans Against Food Taxes coalition -- and sign the petition telling Congress what you think of the concept of using taxes to tell you what to drink. Especially in this economy.