Fast Food Ban in South L.A. Could be Lifted

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Photo by foodforfel via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr

Politicians and food policy advocates have been fighting for years to keep fast food establishments out of South L.A., which is arguably one of our city's worst food deserts. But a new Community Plan proposed for the 32-square mile area of West Adams - Baldwin Hills -Leimert Park area may mean that will all come to an end.

Back when the fast food ban was first put in place in 2008, it was easier to buy a gun in South L.A. than it was to find nutritious fruits and veg. The moratorium on new construction of fast food restaurants, along with community activists like guerilla gardner Ron Finley, aimed to stop that.

In 2008 fast-food chains represented 45% of all restaurants in South Los Angeles, which was far more than other Los Angeles neighborhoods. The obesity and diabetes rates in the area was reflective of the dining options. It's been reported that residents in South Los Angeles had an obesity rate of 34.4 percent, while for those living in West L.A. the rate was only 11.7 percent. Food policy activists argue that this is due to a lack of access to wholesome food.

The Community Plan met quite a bit of opposition at the City Planning Commission hearing Thursday. Says SPCR:

Gwendolyn Flynn, the policy director of non-profit health advocacy group Community Health Councils (CHC), said the current Community Plan for this area would exempt Council District 10 from the fast food ordinance—which blocks stand-alone fast food restaurants from opening within a half mile of another existing fast food eatery.

"The ordinance’s goal was to curb the concentration of fast food restaurants and preserve space for the development of other food choices," said the CHC... Although Flynn said this is a step in the right direction, their recommendation must now be approved by the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee and eventually the full City Council. If the commission's recommendation is not approved and CD 10 is exempted from the fast food ban, nearly 80 percent of the people who live in the Baldwin Hills Community Plan area will be affected.

So while it looks like the ban hasn't yet met its demise, it's important to consider the root of the problem.

KCET hits the nail on the head with their analysis of the issue:

Food deserts are a chicken-and-egg problem. Humans need to be educated about how to eat properly, there's no doubt about that. If they aren't getting that education, they won't be demanding healthier options from their neighborhood or giving that new "fresh" grocery store a chance. And if they aren't demanding produce, "fresh" stores will stop opening up there because it's simply not a viable business option. And if there are no healthy options, people will just continue frequenting the fast food franchises, leading to a continuing proliferation of them, leading to fewer grocery stores (and the opportunities they provide), and the cycle just goes ahead and starts over...Which is to say, to fix the problem, the cycle must be broken.