Last month the city council in South Los Angeles, California passed a regulation banning new fast food restaurants from opening in the area. The new regulation is part of a public health effort to combat the high rate of obesity, heart disease and diabetes which plagues the poverty stricken region. The county’s health department reports 30% of residents are obese, which is double the rate seen in wealthier parts of the city.
The regulation would not affect existing fast-food restaurants, nor those set to open in strip malls. Small mom and pop establishments as well as casual sit down restaurants would still be allowed to get permits. The ban is aimed at stand-alone fast-food joints, of which there are nearly 1000 in the 30 square miles covered by the regulation.
The ban is an effort to reduce obesity, encourage more healthy food options and attract healthier food outlets like sit down restaurants, fresh produce markets and grocery stores to the area.
A previous temporary moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in 2008 resulted in the first new supermarket opening in the area in nearly a decade.
In an interview with The New York Times Jan Perry, the city councilwoman who pushed for the ban said “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. To say that these restaurants are not part of the problem would be foolish.”
The regulation was passed unanimously by the city council, but the new act is not without critics. The California Restaurant Association expressed concern that the ban could prevent other businesses from trying to open in the area.
This is the first ban based on public health policy of its kind and could serve as a model for other communities struggling with lack of healthy food options and the health problems caused by consumption of fast-food.
Health advocacy group the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is currently pushing for a similar ban in Detroit, Michigan, a fast-food mecca that lacks a national grocery chain and has the fourth-highest rate of heart disease in the country.