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City smart to go after unhealthy food

first_imgIt’s unfair that South L.A. residents bear the burden of a toxic-food environment while nearby communities have access to better food. This disparity between neighborhoods amounts to food apartheid, and means that residents of South L.A. can look forward to higher levels of chronic disease and worse health outcomes. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health recently released a report showing that low-income communities within the county have a disproportionately high percentage of child obesity, too. Among proposed solutions, the report recommended using zoning to discourage unhealthy food retailers. This fall, the Los Angeles City Council is considering an ordinance to do just that. The ordinance would stop new fast-food chain restaurants from setting up shop in South L.A. for the next two years. This fast-food cease-fire would give the residents and leaders of South L.A. a chance to envision the sort of food establishments that would meet the needs of the community – and to take steps to make it happen. Considering the great impact that the local food environment has on what people eat, it is crucial for communities to start a dialogue and for local governments to lead the charge. If we are going to tackle obesity and chronic disease, we need to stop the proliferation of harmful food, and instead, ensure access to healthy, nutritious food. South L.A.’s proposed ban on fast food is a brave and bold step towards a healthier community; one for other cities to follow. Juliet Sims is a registered dietitian and a graduate student at the U.C. Berkeley School of Public Health.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Everyone eats. But what and how much we eat is greatly affected by the sort of food that is available around us. Take our ancestors: Humans evolved in a calorie-sparse world; as a result, they ate less. Those who could get their hands on sugary, fatty foods – which are taste-bud queues for calories – had a better chance of surviving. But things have changed. Today our nation is bursting at the seams with food. This overabundance flips the calories-equal-survival equation on its head. Now, those who eat more low-calorie foods, like fruits and, vegetables, are the healthiest. Sadly, our lizard brains have not evolved as quickly as our food environment. With the combination of calorie-loving humans and a country where cheap, unhealthy, high-calorie foods abound, you’ve got a recipe for poor health: a toxic food environment. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREPettersson scores another winner, Canucks beat KingsUnprecedented levels of diet-related diseases, like obesity, highlight the fact that communities across the country are facing food environments that are hostile to health. But some neighborhoods – low-income ones in particular – are worse off than others. South Los Angeles is one such community. South L.A. suffers from a major imbalance of unhealthy food-retail outlets compared to healthy ones. An L.A. Times analysis found that South Los Angeles has the highest concentration of fast-food restaurants in the city, and very few grocery stores. Given South L.A.’s plethora of fast-food options, it should come as no surprise that 30percent of adults are obese, compared with 20.9percent in the county overall. Research has shown that communities with high concentrations of fast-food restaurants also have high levels of obesity. A dearth of grocery stores, furthermore, may be why South L.A. residents are significantly less likely to get five servings of fruits and vegetables a day than residents countywide. Consumption of fruits and vegetables increases when there’s a supermarket in the neighborhood. last_img read more