–Los Angeles, CA
It is no mystery that built environments in low-income communities reflect an “anything goes” mentality. What else could explain the vast numbers of auto repair shops, chrome plating businesses, chemical plants, liquor stores, motels & hotels, and of course fast food restaurants–fast food restaurants that far outnumber establishments that provide fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and produce.
Community Health Councils [CHC] has a long history of fighting to make L.A. a healthy place for all Angelenos regardless of socio-economic status. From health care access to encouraging full-service supermarkets to invest in poor communities CHC has been leading the charge. So it was not a mystery when they pushed for and secured an Interim Control Ordinance [ICO] temporarily restricting the development of new stand alone fast food restaurants in L.A.s poorest communities. That ICO is set to expire in late September 2010 and a permanent ordinance/plan has yet to be created.
Why is this important?
The levels of food related illness in poor communities is grossly disproportionate to those levels found in more affluent areas. Hypertension, diabetes, and obesity is but a few examples of illnesses that are impacting our families, children and adults alike, and leading to costly medical bills and oftentimes premature death. These facts alone create the moral and financial imperative to ensure a permanent ordinance is created ASAP.
The town-hall, held at Second African Methodist Episcopal Church, was attended by many residents concerned about their unhealthy food environment. Also in attendance, however, was Council-member Bernard Parks, Marie Rumsey, representing Council-member Jan Perry, as well as representatives from the public health and planning departments.
Pete White, LA CAN, facilitates a spirited question and answer period
The town-hall meeting was moderated by LA CANs, Pete White, who gently prodded presenters to share with attendees what was needed to make a permanent ordinance an immediate reality. At one point Council-member Parks shared that in South Los Angeles planning that customarily happens every year in other communities happens every couple of decades in South Los Angeles. That of course left one question, “where have you been in correcting this obvious problem?”
Residents stayed long into the night to plan the next course of action. Organized into 5-workgroups residents developed community-based action plans that would be used to galvanize recruitment efforts and secure a long overdue ordinance that will protect the health of our community.