South LA Fast Food Ban Backfires

South Los Angeles banned fast food restaurants in the area in 2008, but a new study shows fast food consumption has gone up.

South LA Fast Food Ban Backfires
Getty Images / Jeff J Mitchell

Turns out a 2008 law banning new fast food restaurants in South Los Angeles hasn't worked out as planned. In fact, it did the exact opposite of what it was meant to do.

KNBC reports"The idea was to improve public health, but a new study says it didn't work. ... Before the law, 63 percent of South L.A. residents reported being over weight or obese. That number jumped to 75 percent." 

According to the lead author in the study, which was conducted by the RAND Corporation, "This should not come as a surprise: Most food outlets in the area are small food stores or small restaurants with limited seating that are not affected by the policy."

The law only restricted stand-alone restaurants, so for instance, fast food restaurants could still open in strip malls. And they did. According to the study, 17 new fast food restaurants opened in the area from 2008 to 2012. 

"Fast food consumption actually went up in South L.A.," reports Fox News

But the Los Angeles Times talked to Gwendolyn Flynn, policy director for nutrition resources at Community Health Councils, who said she disagrees that the regulation was ineffective: 

"Flynn said she has noticed that at community meetings in South L.A., there is often fruit and water among the pastries and soda. 'That's huge,' she said."

And the RAND study did find that consumption of soft drinks decreased across Los Angeles since the law was implemented.

But as both critics and proponents of the ban note, time will tell whether the policy makes a difference in the long run — time and a change of lifestyle. 

KTTV anchors discussed the news, saying, "People choose unhealthier options because they taste better."

"And convenience." 

"I just think it shows the folly of good intentions being applied very badly. ... You can close a number of restaurants but you have to change how people live and they have to change themselves." 

With about 700,000 residents living in the South Los Angeles area, the ban was the first time a big city has successfully implemented such a law in an effort to increase public health.

This video includes images from Getty Images.