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Will L.A. Overturn a Controversial Fast Food Ban?

After four years of banning the construction of new stand-alone fast food restaurants in South L.A., the city's planning department is considering raising the ban amid increasing questions about the impact of food deserts on obesity.
April 18, 2013, 12pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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When the city of Los Angeles issued a moratorium on new fast food franchises opening within the South L.A. neighborhoods of West Adams, Baldwin Village and Leimart Park in 2008, "[t]he goal of the ban was to give restaurants and grocery stores offering fresher, healthier items a chance to flourish in the area, thus giving residents more options when shopping for food," writes Rick Paulas. 

But, amid increasing questions about the connection between food deserts and obesity, "it was announced recently that a new proposed Community Plan for the area will lift the restrictions and allow a new influx of fast food restaurants in the area."

Paulas, however, isn't convinced that the city should abandon its attempts to expand access to fresh food in these areas of the city. "Food deserts are a chicken-and-egg problem," he argues. "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."

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Published on Tuesday, April 16, 2013 in KCET
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