The Los Angeles Times recently reported that the Los Angeles City Council is considering a two-year ban on new fast food restaurants in South L.A. South L.A. has an obesity rate 10% higher than the rest of the county. City Council member Jan Perry, who represents South L.A. and proposed the ordinance, claims that the proposal’s purpose is to give residents more options: “The people don’t want them [fast food establishments], but when they don’t have any other options, they may gravitate to what’s there.”
This does not seem like an unreasonable assertion and god knows that we’re certainly not in the business of advocating for fast food restaurants but this proposal still rubs us the wrong way. First of all, why just South L.A.? The area is one of the county’s poorest, which makes the whole thing smell unpleasantly of a sort of elitist paternalism. So, fast food is a fine choice if you’re in Beverly Hills, but not Crenshaw? Secondly, as the fine commenters at Slashfood have pointed out, it’s very difficult to decide exactly what is and is not a fast food establishment. We’d argue that there’s quite a difference health-wise between Panera Bread and McDonald’s and environmentally between Burger King and Grille Zone. We thoroughly agree that residents of all neighborhoods should have options far beyond fast food, but perhaps the way to do it is to offer incentives for healthier establishments, grocery stores, and farmers markets to open in South L.A.
What do you think? Is this the best way to reduce obesity? What measures would you propose instead?