L.A. Makes Room for Healthy Food

In South Los Angeles, healthy food options are a bit scarce. Fast food joints, on the other hand, litter nearly every corner, advertising hot deals on burgers, fries, chicken nuggets, and tacos to go. But  part of a public health campaign to address obesity issues in the city has fought to counteract the proliferation of fast food, and just last month, finally won.

Los Angeles has just enacted a radical set of food policies and regulations that effectively ban the building of any new, free-standing fast food restaurants in South Los Angeles. South Los Angeles is a section of the city that has alarmingly high rates of poverty and obesity compared to other parts of LA. The hope is that different, more healthy food options will crop up in  place of future fast food joints. LA's public health advocates are pushing for more fresh food, grocery stores with ample produce sections, sit-down family restaurants, and take-out salads to repopulate the veritable food desert.

While the regulations do ban any new, stand alone fast food restaurants, they won't spell an end to the current plethora of fast food in South LA. Established restaurants will remain open, and exceptions are made for restaurants that open inside shopping malls, as well as smaller, locally owned restaurants that serve unhealthy, fast food. Fast food will not be vanishing from the neighborhood, and it will certainly still be a predominant option for residents. However by limiting fast food expansion, supporters hope to see an influx of healthy food options.

Policy decisions like this ban are controversial, and often seen by proponents as an effort to control what people choose to eat. However its seems as though the opposite could be true as well: that this type of food policy actually increases the number of choices that people in a certain neighborhood or area have, and simply presents the option of eating more healthy foods in a place that lacks easy access to such choices.

photo credit: olygardener