“Telling McDonald’s it can open franchises only in the white part of town”

by Walter Olson on August 1, 2008

William Saletan is appropriately appalled by the action of the Los Angeles City Council, which has moved to prohibit the opening of new fast food restaurants in South Central. Law and public health activists are trying to obtain similar legislation in New York and elsewhere, often pretending that they are not seeking to override the actual food choices of local residents. It’s a good idea not always to accept their factual assertions at face value:

“You try to get a salad within 20 minutes of our location; it’s virtually impossible,” says the Community Coalition’s executive director. Really? The coalition’s headquarters is at 8101 S. Vermont Ave. A quick Google search shows, among other outlets, a Jack-in-the-Box six blocks away. They have salads. Not the world’s greatest salads, but not as bad as a government that tells you whose salad you can eat.

(“Food Apartheid”, Slate, Jul. 31).

More: Several thoughts from Hans Bader, including this: “When Domino’s, a private company, decided not to deliver pizza and other fast food to certain dangerous parts of Washington, D.C., based on geographic region, not race, it was accused of racism by civil-rights groups, sued for discrimination, and demonized by D.C.’s City Council. … Why the double standard in favor of government bullies?” From commenter “Shine” at Matthew Yglesias: “What’s ironic is that many of the mom and pop restaurants were burned out during the 1992 riots. And the fast-food franchises promised two things that the post-riot LA political establishment (i.e., Rebuild L.A.) demanded above all else: minority ownership and jobs.” Another commenter there, “Too many Steves”, sniffs “a political favor to the existing franchise owners”, who stand to benefit from the throttle on competition, and whose interests of course diverge from those of the national franchisors, who are probably quite sincere in their opposition.

{ 7 comments }

1 Roy B 08.01.08 at 11:25 am

Beyond the legal issues, how about; Will the council require health food restaurants (per their definition) to open, will they make certain that healthy food is served in city run food kitchens, will they put an expenditure into the city budget to pay for locations serving healthy food to be opened in the neighborhoods? Which leads to the question that if they do open such a place or places, will the residents be required to eat at them?

2 Heather 08.01.08 at 12:01 pm

Require them to eat certain entrees at certain restaurants? Why not just prepare their meals altogether, and force ‘em to sit down while you watch them eat it? Like elementary school.

3 VMS 08.01.08 at 12:29 pm

A sure way to become a litigaiton magnet is to step on the financial toes of a corporate giant that has the where-with-all to hire a top notch firm and promply march into federal court with a show cause order seeking a TRO. It also greatly helps if the corporate giant has an ironclad case.

I’m sure that individual residents of South Central may try to sue claiming that the gummint is trying to redline their district on racial grounds. Whether they have standing is not a straightforward issue, but I’m sure that it will be litigated.

The citizens of LA probably do not want their tax money spent on defending these lawsuits. Also they are probably not happy about the needless loss of a good tax base.

I can’t imagine The Getty Center Restaurant or Grace (two upscale LA eateries) or any other restaurant filling the void in South Central. Maybe the gummint should figure out how to offer fine dining in South Central at McDonald’s prices.

4 nevins 08.01.08 at 12:30 pm

*said with Al Gore fanaticism*

My god people, food kills. and it is killing (buzzwords here) minorities, women, and children at a disproportionate rate. Blacks are bearing the unfortunate burden of their own food choices. We must stop the killing. We must stop people from a slow death drawn out over 50, 60, even 70 years, during which time they enjoy the savory flavors and scrumptions smells of Mcburgers.

5 teqjack 08.02.08 at 4:48 pm

And the “science” behind all this is nonexistent lots of links, in particular to the actual studies, at –
http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/2008/08/were-not-eating-so-badly.html
. . .
In contrast to widespread beliefs that minorities and poorer people eat nutritionally worse and more calorie-dense diets, the nutrient intakes by race/ethnicity show that whites averaged 2,198 kcal/day — more than Blacks at 2,095 kcal and Mexican-Americans at 2,109 kcal. Diets were similar among the ethnic/racial groups in most major nutrients such as sugars and proteins.
. . .
The prejudicial belief that poor people eat worse diets was also not supported in this government data, just as it hasn’t in 196 studies conducted in the U.S. and other developed countries, recently reviewed.

6 William Nuesslein 08.03.08 at 9:03 am

Tedjack is correct about the relationship between poverty and nutrition. I recall the elation I had when encountered the datum several years ago. Our country overcame a problem that was pronounced in draftees for World War II.

I recommend that all read junkfoodscience.blogspot.com a few times. Sandy Swartz knows what she is talking about. As someone who loves Science, I think Sany Szwarc is just terrific.

7 Tom 08.03.08 at 4:07 pm

If you go by this article provided by Men’s Health that rates the relative healthiness of dining out, McDonald’s gets a “B” while Chipotle gets a “D” and restaurants like Applebee’s and Outback get “F”s.

http://health.yahoo.com/experts/eatthis/11230/americas-bestand-worstrestaurants/

The reality is that hamburgers simply aren’t health food–and a hamburger at McDonald’s isn’t necessarily worse than a hamburger at Ruby Tuesday’s. In fact, it is probably even be better than a burrito from Chipotle.

Comments on this entry are closed.