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Gimme the banned burger – I don’t care how many calories it has

Submitted by on Tuesday, 6 October 2009 One Comment

Los Angeles tried weight control by zoning a year ago, banning new fast-food restaurants in the southern part of the city.

That didn’t work, and a new study now suggests that including nutrition information on menus might help.

Ay, but New York City tried that, and according to another study in the same edition of “Health Affairs,” people purchased slight more calories after the information became available.

That kind of muddies the waters when it comes to government efforts to curb obesity, doesn’t it.

What is clear: Even after the zoning change, South Los Angelinos are more likely than people in higher income areas of the county to be overweight. They also eat more calories in junk food and watch more television. They’re slightly less likely to eat five servings of fruits or vegetables a day and to exercise vigorously.

And despite what city leaders said when creating the zoning change, South Los Angeles actually has a smaller concentration of fast food than other parts of the city and its residents are less likely to eat out. There is, however, a higher concentration of convenience stores.

This, though, is where the story really gets interesting. Eleven percent of South Los Angeles residents use public transportation to grocery shop and 14 percent walk to the store, as opposed to 1 percent and 4 percent in higher-income areas.

Let’s see … I’m living in a sweltering city and forced to tote my groceries home on a bus. Am I going to pick up bulky fruits and vegetables or am I going to stock up on items I can carry more easily? If the bus ride’s long enough, I might even skip the milk – a gallon is awfully heavy. Maybe I’ll just skip the whole trip it and grab a hot dog and chips at the 7-11.

The tragedy here is that Los Angeles is within an easy drive of some of the most bountiful agricultural land in the world. Wonder how many people make it from South LA to the Beverly Hills farmers market. There’s not a single option south of Compton, though there at least is one in Watts courtesy of Kaiser Permanente.

The Watts market is actually a great example of what needs to happen in cities across the country where poverty, if not restricts, then discourages good food choices. The group responsible for the markets, SEE-LA, is opening a farmer’s kitchen this weekend that will offer fresh food, cooking classes and nutrition training, as well as a cafe.

The only problem: It’s in Hollywood – average yearly income, $124,000. Maybe they can run a catering service out to Compton. I don’t think that counts as a fast-food establishment under city zoning.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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One Comment »

  • Lisa said:

    Chicago has this problem too. And it just floors me when stores like Walmart want to come in and add a grocery for these areas, and they vote it down.