South Los Angeles Halts Fast Food Expansion
By Tom Ryan
While some cities are pushing for calorie counts on restaurant menus or banning trans fat, South Los Angeles is taking more drastic measures to help its chubby residents. The local city council voted last week to place a moratorium on new fast food restaurants for one year. The move is designed to provide time for legislators to attract restaurants serving healthier food.
Thirty percent of adults in South Los Angeles area are obese, compared to 19.1 percent for the metropolitan area of Los Angeles and 14.1 percent for the affluent Westside, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. A separate report by the Community Health Councils found 73 percent of South Los Angeles restaurants were fast food, compared to 42 percent in West Los Angeles.
Councilwoman Jan Perry told The Associated Press that residents have complained about their limited options outside fast food at recent community meetings, but many don’t have cars to drive to regions with more choices.
As part of the moratorium, the city is offering incentives to attract more restaurants serving healthier food. Perks include assistance finding real estate, low-interest loans, matching funds for burying utility lines, discounted electricity rates, and tax credits.
The moratorium, which can be extended up to a year, only affects stand-alone restaurants, not those in malls or strip centers. Exempted from the ordinance are “fast-food casual” restaurants (e.g., El Pollo Loco, Subway, Pastagina) that don’t have drive-through windows or heat lamps and prepare fresh food to order.
Research shows that while cost remains a key factor in poor communities, people will change eating habits when different foods are offered, said Kelly Brownell, director of Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.
“Cheap, unhealthy food and lack of access to healthy food is a recipe for obesity,” said Mr. Brownell. “Diets improve when healthy food establishments enter these neighborhoods.”
The California Restaurant Association said it may consider legal action against the ordinance. Representatives of fast-food chains believe they are being unfairly targeted since many have significantly expanded the amount of healthier items on their menus.
“It’s not where you eat, it’s what you eat,” Andrew Puzder, president and chief executive of CKE Restaurants, parent company of Carl’s Jr.
Discussion questions: What do you think of South LA’s one-year ban on fast food chains? Do you see other cities putting more restrictions on fast food chains? What implications might this have for retailers?