Back in 2008, L.A. city lawmakers passed a much-hailed law that they predicted would combat obesity in one of Los Angeles’s poorest areas. The 2008 law banned the opening of new, stand alone fast-food chains in obesity-stricken South Los Angeles.
According to a new study by the RAND Corp. think tank, the fast-food ban “had no meaningful effect,” and has failed to reduce fast-food consumption or reduce obesity rates in the neighborhoods.
From 2008 to 2012, there were no licenses for stand-alone fast-food restaurants. Instead, chains opened 17 new restaurants in strip malls and food courts during that time (the law only banned “stand-alone” outlets). The RAND study found that almost half of the new food permits were for convenience stores that sold soda and junk food.
Before the fast-food ordinance, 63 percent of South Los Angeles residents reported being overweight or obese compared with 57 percent in other parts of the county. Three years after the ordinance went into effect, 75 percent of South Los Angeles residents reported being overweight or obese compared with 58 percent in other parts of the county. That’s a 12 percent jump in overweight or obese residents in three years. Scary.
Alex Ortega, a professor of public health at UCLA, told AP, “It’s not just about limiting unhealthy food, but increasing access to healthy food.” There are very few sidewalk cafes in South L.A., and very few markets selling fresh food.
Fortunately, a surging Hispanic population in South L.A. has inspired a group of black-owned restaurants and young, Instagram-savvy entrepreneurs to open taco stands. One such taco operation is called “All Flavor No Grease.” The name suggests the promise of a healthier—but still delicious—option for residents of South L.A.