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The soft bigotry of high calorie counts?

Posted by Devra First  July 14, 2008 10:32 AM

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Here's a pretty interesting story updating us about a city councilor's push for a moratorium on new fast food restaurants in South Los Angeles. Jan Perry, who represents the largely African-American and Latino District 9, says research shows 16 percent of restaurants in prosperous West LA serve fast food, but in South LA it's 45 percent. A Health Department study found 29 percent of South LA kids are obese, compared with 23 percent countywide. Naturally, trade group the California Restaurant Association is criticizing the push.

The effort seems largely aimed at chains, though I'm not sure how healthy some of the neighborhood's soul food spots might be. The story quotes Marqueece Harris-Dawson, executive director of South Central-based Community Coalition, as saying it's nearly impossible to get a salad within 20 minutes of their location. On Friday, Curbed LA reported today would be the groundbreaking for a new low-income housing development in South LA that will include a Fresh & Easy market. Will it have a salad bar?

Some say that instead of focusing on a ban, the neighborhood should work on creating incentives for other kinds of restaurants to open. Ban or no, that would seem fairly logical.

The story makes me think of Hyde Park, which has quite a few fast food places. But the folks who used to run the Kendall Cafe in Cambridge, Hyde Park residents themselves, recently opened Townsend's, a restaurant serving upscale renditions of pub grub and many kinds of beer. They're opening a cafe, too. Just two new spots within spitting distance of the commuter rail will change the feeling of Fairmount Avenue greatly. If South LA's entrepreneurial neighborhood residents were offered incentives to open new, healthier restaurants, the dining landscape could quickly feel very different there.

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Sheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.

Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.

Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.
 

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