Jewish Journal

The Facts About Fast Food in South LA

by  David A. Lehrer

October 8, 2009 | 3:33 pm

Tuesday’s LA Times had a small item that was revealing. In a piece entitled “Ban on fast food eateries is no fat cure study says” the Times reports on a Rand Corporation study  dealing with what had been a rather hotly debated issue last year—-the efficacy of a moratorium on fast food establishments in South LA passed by the LA City Council.

In an op/ed Community Advocates published in the Times last year, we argued that the moratorium was bad public policy,
The real health problems in South L.A. are the result of long-standing food preferences influenced by culture, pocketbook imperatives and the dearth of supermarkets in the community that offer healthy, affordable produce. This means that solutions to diabetes and obesity are far more complex than Perry (Councilwoman Jan) or her council accomplices are willing to admit.

Well, here comes the respected Rand Corp. and it concludes, what seems obvious, that “the premises for the ban were questionable…contrary to ‘conventional wisdom,’ the density of fast-food chain restaurants per capita is actually less in South Los Angeles than in other parts of the city…..limiting the type of restaurants that move to the area isn’t likely to solve the problem.”

Interestingly, the study found no difference in fruit and vegetable consumption between residents of South Los Angeles and people in other areas. It also attributed the greater likelihood of South LA residents to be obese to their consuming more snacks and sodas than people who lived in other areas.

Rand concluded that government leaders who are truly concerned about obesity and the health problems associated with it could encourage more healthful food consumption, improving nutrition and nutrition education in schools as well as encouraging farmers’ markets, fruit and vegetable carts and community gardens. All far more reasonable steps than what the City Council did which was to limit, not expand, choices.

Dealing with obesity, like many other issues, is just another example of a complex and nuanced issue being reduced to a slogan and quick fix by politicians who seem to have no stomach for patience, forethought and treating their constituents as adults.

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