City Planners Create Dietary Architecture in South LA

The plot thickens like Gong Bao sauce with Kingsfords 'expressly for food' cornstarch!

There have been a few interesting Gut Feelings discussions of late on personal eating choices vs societal implications.

As Maytel pointed out, there are so many different sets of circumstances under which, say, a Walmart may open, it's very difficult to say definitively if it will be a good or bad thing.

England is still fizzing with rage over Jamie Oliver's school dinner campaign, and omnivores get ever more obsessed with the origins of their food, calculating how much energy they expend per footstep to reach their seed store to buy a tomato plant. Meanwhile, as we noted in April, a study in the USA showed that vouchers that permit low-income women to shop at a local farmers’ market increased fruit and vegetable consumption in poor families.
it feels like the developed world is caught in a massive tangle of environmental and social/governmental concerns versus free will concerning what one puts in one's mouth.

Here is a fascinating article about how Los Angeles has imposed a one year ban on new fast food franchises in Southern LA.

Are we at a dietary tipping point? People's dietary choices being controlled by well-to-do city planners!! The coining of the term 'food desert'!!
Are healthy choices a type of imperialism, or is fast food a type of social ill that should be legislated against? It seems clear that in certain senses & situations people are not capable of making choices that are good for themselves.
But is this food-equivalent of Giuliani's draconian nightlife laws going to make LA people healthier and happier?
And is it a big deal if a few pupusa vendors are sacrificed along the way?

"Jonathan Gold, the LA Weekly food critic who won a Pulitzer Prize last year, said he understands the spirit of the freeze, which is an urban planning measure meant to keep the neighborhood, South Los Angeles, from being swallowed up by drive-though fast food restaurants. (A separate measure by the city provides economic incentives for new grocery stores and restaurants with table service.)

Fast food chains, he said, are like jellyfish in the ocean: with too many in one area, nothing else can thrive.

But he worries that the law could keep out places of more culinary interest. South Los Angeles has the best barbecue in the city, he said, and it has a growing number of cooks from Mexico and Central America making lamb barbacoa and pupusas. “Anytime you try to ban something, there’s a lot of bycatch,” he said.

The moratorium’s definition of a fast food business is any stand-alone restaurant that dispenses food, to stay or to go, and that has “a limited menu, items prepared in advance or prepared or heated quickly, no table orders, and food served in disposable wrapping or containers.” It is up to the city’s director of planning to decide which places fit that definition.

The councilwoman behind the moratorium, Jan Perry, says its intent is not to crush food choices, but to encourage variety and give residents more nutritious options. Making healthy decisions about food is difficult when people have small incomes, the grocery store is five miles away and a $1 cheeseburger is right around the corner, she and supporters of the ban say.

The moratorium doesn’t mean that people who live within the affected 32-square-mile zone will be cut off from the pleasures of an inexpensive cheeseburger and hot fries. More than 45 percent of the 900 restaurants there — the highest concentration in the city — are fast food chains.

The idea is to bring new eating options to the city’s food deserts, the term now in vogue to describe poor neighborhoods whose residents have few places to buy fresh groceries.

“People do not understand what happens in a disenfranchised community,” said Councilwoman Perry, who represents neighborhoods in the area. “The fact remains, there are not a lot of food choices in South L.A.”

Since there is not much land left to develop in the area, the moratorium will allow city planners time to determine what kinds of businesses would be best in an area where rates of obesity and diseases related to it are disproportionately high.

“What we’re beginning to see is almost the monopolization of our dietary intake by a handful of corporations,” said David Zinczenko, editor in chief of Men’s Health magazine and the author of several diet books, including “Eat This, Not That! for Kids!” (Rodale, 2008).

“Add to that the financial reality of feeding ourselves today, where a single grapefruit from a corner fruit stand costs two or more times as much as a few Chicken McNuggets,” he said, “and I think you can begin to put together a case for governmental intervention.”

But not everyone agrees, including Joe R. Hicks, a radio talk show host who was the executive director of Los Angeles’s Human Relations Commission under Mayor Richard Riordan a decade ago. The two now work for a think tank that focuses on race relations.

“The crime in all of this is that people are sitting around meddling into the very minutiae of what people are putting in their mouths,” he said.

He argues that the ban assumes the 500,000 people who live in South Los Angeles are intellectually incapable of deciding what to eat.

“There is not a single public health crisis in the history of mankind that has been solved by handing out brochures,” said Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy.

In South Los Angeles, the burgers continue to fry.

“There is a sentiment here that it is a little anti-American, but people forget government tells businesses where to go all the time,” said Eddie North-Hager, a blogger who runs a community bulletin board focused on his neighborhood, Leimert Park, which is about 90 percent black and within the ban area.

He says there are 10 McDonald’s restaurants within three miles of his home. “It seems like a lot,” he said, “and that’s just McDonald’s.”


    Check out for some of the great healthy and vegetarian restaurants we do have, albeit few and far between.
    Also the city has made it clear, that this ban will be imposed on a case by case basis. So if Let's Be Frank would deign to sell their great food in our area - there wouldn't be a problem.
    And it's important to note that a separate measure passed by the city provides economic incentives for new grocery stores and restaurants with table service.


    Thanks for the link, will definitely take a look. I am in no doubt that South LA must harbour some great eating 'oases' in the so-called food desert.

    And the economic incentives you mention are indeed a very commendable step by the town council.

    The more I think about this 'ban', and the fact that it's imposed case by case, the more it makes sense to me. It seems the journalist framed it in controversial terms by implying that the organic wiener sellers would also suffer as 'by catch' of the measures.

    If the government can regulate the location or density of other types of business, why not regulate those chains that produce obesity-causing foods, and provide incentives for grocery stores and restaurants which enrich the desert?


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