South LA can has cheezburger?

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When Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation came out in 2001, it incited discussions about the prevalence of fast food fare in our diets. Three years later Morgan Spurlock placed some french fries in a jar and wondered, “Why on earth don’t these things decompose?”

We can add Councilwoman Jan Perry of LAs 9th District to the list of activist muckrakers. Councilman Perry is advocating for a 2-year moratorium on the establishment of new fast food restaurants within her district, arguing that healthier restaurants are shut out of development opportunities.

News of this has spread nationally, appearing on national news outlets, at the Consumerist, and was even a featured topic of discussion on yesterday’s Tom Leykis show.

I’m not a very big believer in mandating public behavior. In fact, I even agreed with Leykis’s statement that this is just the politicians’ way of appearing to solve a serious problem, without actually doing anything about it. The problem is not the ubiquitousness of fast food restaurants. The real problem is poverty (and the affordability of junk food vs. the cost of healthy options), and a lack of education (are health classes in schools tackling this problem early on? are parents being properly educated on developing healthy eating habits in their children?).

In my math class, I teach the students that before the LA Riots, there were upwards of 600 liquor stores within a 3-mile radius of any given South Los Angeles neighborhood. We discuss density and all that, sure; but I always mention that these liquor stores exist only because the market can bear it. Should demand fall, these stores would shutter their doors. Any war, including this new war on obesity has to be fought on the demand side. Fighting the supply side never works. Hasn’t the war on drugs taught us anything?

8 Replies to “South LA can has cheezburger?”

  1. Actually there’s a lot to be said on the supply side. We’re actively subsidizing junk food through our agricultural subsidy system which promotes the production of commodity corn and soybeans which turn into Twinkies and Big Macs at a very low price per calory. When you think about all the industrial production that goes into a can of Coke, you have to wonder why it’s cheaper to by soda than juice (and the answer isn’t because of the demand… if a bottle of juice were cheaper than a bottle of soda, you can bet that people would shift their habits to juice).

    I strongly recommend The Omnivore’s Dilemma (or any of Michael Pollen’s recent journalism on food issues) for anyone who’s interested in these issues.

  2. The ubiquitousness of fast food restaurants is not THE problem — no one is saying that, including Jan Perry.

    But the ubiquitousness of fast food restaurants in poor neighborhoods is definitely a huge problem. And so is the near total lack of full service grocery stores, produce markets, farmer’s markets, and healthier independent restaurants.

    You know, the kind of places that serve the hand-made burger at the top of this post?

  3. In Highland Park there was a mini-mall that had a liquor store, an excellent Thai restaurant, a pupuseria, a vegetable market, a key cutter booth, and a laundromat. That ALL got torn down to build one drive thru McDonalds, I kid you not. Remember, new places don’t necessarily go up in vacant lots, they often kick out and replace useful places, corpo-money is very attractive. A moratorium might have left us with better options. Instead, all that’s left is a tiny caution in the form of a comment.

  4. I don’t see how forbidding more fast food joints will either encourage residents to find better food, or encourage healthier restaurants to move in.

    Councilwoman Perry should concentrate instead of creating more and better playspaces for kids, improving phys ed programs, in the classrooms, and finding incentives to bring in healthier restaurant chains.

    More imporantly, I concur with the above commenters and am now craving a Big Mac.

  5. Yes, this is just another bullshit attempt to legislate morality.

    People probably don’t Seek Out fast food restaurants, but they don’t exactly avoid them either. Plenty of alternatives already exist, and people still want their Whoppers and Big Macs.

    It’s utter crap to punish business owners for the tastes of their customers.

    Supersize THAT.

  6. People buy cheap food. The problem is that we have an industrial food complex which maximizes profit by making unhealthy food cheaply. Why should it be cheaper to take a bunch of industrially processed corn to make a can of coke than to juice an apple to make a can of apple juice?

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