City bans fast food restaurants. Should Chicago be next?

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Some communities ban bars, liquor stores or strip clubs. But South Los Angeles is using its zoning laws to outlaw a different kind of foe: fast food.

In 2008, South L.A., which has high poverty and obesity rates, enacted a moratorium on new fast food restaurants. And it’s stuck. Since then, not one McDonald’s or Burger King has moved into the neighborhood. But the area did get a new supermarket – the first one in 10 years.

The latest research shows that Chicago’s food desert is shrinking, but it’s still huge. Almost 600,000 city residents live in our food desert, and 78 percent of them are African American.

“There are people who are accused of being the food police, of trying to
control what goes into people’s mouths,” City Councilman Bernard Parks told the New York Times. “But we just
don’t think that we need to give fast food more rights around here. We
don’t think our community needs to have 10 or 15 or 18 ways to eat a

familiar? It should. Chicago has plenty of communities where decent
supermarkets are few and far between, but fast food comes a dime a
dozen. Popeyes? KFC? White Castle? Got ’em. But a Dominick’s or even a
Food 4 Less is tough to find. Should we be doing the same thing to
encourage better eating habits?

The term food desert doesn’t mean a community is without food entirely. Expert Mari Gallagher says many Chicago neighborhoods are riddled with food – just the wrong kind.

“High concentration of fringe food – fast food, food from the local gas station, the liquor store, packaged food, high in salt, fat and sugar,” she says. “That doesn’t support a healthy diet, or a healthy lifestyle or a long and prosperous life.”

And while there may be a grocery store somewhere, getting there can be a challenge.

“Many of these residents don’t have cars,” says Gallagher. ” They have kids, they have jobs. At the end of the day, when it’s time to find something to eat, if you don’t have a store near by, you just go down to the local convenience store.”

Take a look at Gallagher’s map of the 2010 food desert:

food desert map.png

But will a ban like South L.A.’s work? Or will it take the few jobs that do exist in many Chicago neighborhoods with it?

Photo credit: Like_The_Grand_Canyon


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  • How about we treat people like adults and let them make their own food choices.

  • When I was a baby,my father sold fresh produce from the back of his pick up truck in the Old Town area.This practice is still common in Albany Park and Little Village,despite competition from many supermarkets and stores.Why don't mobile produce vendors reduce the number of food deserts?And if they make money,fruit stands and super markets are sure to follow.

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