Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pulling a Fast One

The NY Sun reports today on the efforts of the Los Angelos City Council to ban new fast food restaurants in a low income neighborhood plagued with obesity. The paper also finds some support in NYC for the initiative: "Support for a fast food ban in New York is growing among city lawmakers after the Los Angeles City Council passed an unprecedented bill Tuesday that would make the addition of new fast food restaurants in certain areas of the city illegal for at least one year."

And, as the LA Times reports, the obesity situation in South Central is acute: "Thirty percent of adults in South L.A. are obese, compared with 20.9% in the county overall, according to a county Department of Public Health study released in April. For children, the obesity rate was 29% in South L.A., compared with 23.3% in the county. And the figures are higher than a decade ago. In 1997, the adult rate was 25.3% in South L.A. and 14.3% in the county. South L.A. also has the highest diabetes levels in the county, at 11.7%, compared with 8.1% in the county."

But will it have any impact? To us, it makes little sense since the saturation already exists, and a one year moratorium sounds just like posturing. The other missing ingredient in the debate is the fact that these outlets, whatever their health impacts might be, are minority owned economic engines for these neighborhoods.

And its not as if the fast fooders aren't adapting to the new health trends: "Fast-food restaurants haven’t missed the cue: From their menus, diners can choose salads over burgers, yogurts over shakes and grilled over fried these days. And many food manufacturers have reconfigured their recipes to eliminate trans fats, the most unhealthful unsaturated fats made of partially hydrogenated oils." So the ball is in the customers' court: start making healthier choices and the restaurants will either get the message or die,

The logic, however, escapes some here in the city. As the Sun points out: "People are literally being poisoned by their diets — LA's idea deserves serious consideration as we look for holistic solutions to a serious problem. A moratorium may help stem the problem," Council Member Eric Gioia, who represents Queens, said in a statement yesterday." Others disagree: "Some city residents, however, immediately voiced opposition to such a ban. "Banning fast food would be stupid," a 38-year-old warehouse worker in downtown Brooklyn, Dennis Bouknight, said. "They should just let people eat what they want to eat."

With calorie posting experiment already in place it's hard to see the city council embarking on this particular venture. However, there's never a shortage of folks eager to engage in the "absurd attempt to make the world over,"