In an effort to improve public health, Los Angeles is doing something radical. It has officially banned the opening of new stand-alone, fast-food restaurants in South Los Angeles. The New York Times explains that the existing fast-food restaurants that are on almost every street corner can remain. New restaurants and stores need to “encourage healthier neighborhood dining.”
Sit-down restaurants, grocery stores with lots of produce and “takeout meals that center on salad rather than fries” are welcome.
“If people don’t have better choices or don’t have the time or knowledge or curiosity, they are going to take what’s there,” said Jan Perry, a city councilwoman who represents part of South Los Angeles and pushed for the regulations. “To say that these restaurants are not part of the problem would be foolish.”
In the area that is covered by the regulations, about 30 square miles, there are an estimated 1,000 fast-food restaurants already in operation. Residents of South Los Angeles have “significantly higher rates of poverty and obesity than other neighborhoods,” and those over 65 years old “are far more likely to receive diagnoses of diabetes or heart disease.”
Of course, not everyone is happy with the decision. The California Restaurant Association thinks this will be a turnoff for any type of food business that would want to open in the area and said the “approach emphasizes sticks over carrots.” (That’s a pretty funny way of putting it considering that carrots and other healthy food choices is are exactly what is being emphasized.)
With that many fast-food restaurants, I can’t imagine that prohibiting the opening of any new restaurants will limit access to fast food to the area’s residents. If any change in the eating habits of the residents happens, the city is going to have to offer incentives for food businesses offering healthier options to move in. Even then, the public will need to be effectively educated on the benefits of making healthier choices so they don’t just fall back on what they know.
Do you think a ban like this can make any difference?