Food Apartheid

Friday, August 1st, 2008

Slate’s Will Saletan on the fast food ban in L.A.:

A fellow council member explains: “The over concentration of fast food restaurants in conjunction with the lack of grocery stores places these communities in a poor situation to locate a variety of food and fresh food.” Supporters of the moratorium call this state of affairs “food apartheid.”

It’s an odd slogan. As the encyclopedia Africana notes, apartheid was a racially discriminatory policy “enforced by white minority governments.” Opening a McDonald’s in South-Central L.A. is not government-enforced racial discrimination. But telling McDonald’s it can open franchises only in the white part of town—what do you call that?

And what about the argument that people in South-Central need the government to block unhealthy food options because they’re “in a poor situation” to locate better choices? This is the argument normally made for restricting children’s food options at school—that they’re more dependent and vulnerable than the rest of us. How do you feel about treating poor people like children?

The council says they want grocery stores instead of fast food. But only the right kind of grocery stores. Big stores that utilize the economies of scale–that is, the only types of stores that could make fresh produce in low income areas profitable–are off limits in the big city. Maybe we should just let the government handle all of the food distribution in low-income areas.

Here’s the most depressing part of Saletan’s piece:

Already, the majority leader of New York’s city council wants to adopt food zoning, and several cities have phoned L.A.’s planning department to request copies of the ordinance.

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15 Responses to “Food Apartheid”

  1. #1 |  David | 

    The comments that follow Saletan’s article are genuinely depressing.

  2. #2 |  Nando | 

    This is the most asinine thing anyone could’ve ever thought up. We want to regulate what choice adults get for food? That’s utterly ridiculous! Why not also regulate what type of gas they can put in their cars (Shell makes cleaner-burning, less gunk-forming gasoline, so ban Tesoro from LA now!) or what types of appliances can be used in poor neighborhoods (people MUST use EnergyStar since they’re poor and need to save money on utilities, right?).

    Boy, this isn’t just a nanny state, it’s turning into a headmistress state!

  3. #3 |  Michael Pack | 

    Without fast food or big box stores where will lower income people shop?Of course,with drug prohibition maybe they think they can afford Whole Foods with drug profits.

  4. #4 |  FP | 

    “Food zoning”? WTF!? Do Americans not realize what this is leading to? Hell in a handbasket I tell ya.

  5. #5 |  Jonathan Hohensee | 

    Without fast food or big box stores where will lower income people shop?Of course,with drug prohibition maybe they think they can afford Whole Foods with drug profits.
    I’m more worried about jobs; 2/3rds of every place I worked at was at a fast food place.

  6. #6 |  z | 

    The next step is to legislate Kroger and Safeway that they MUST open grocery stores in “underserved” neighborhoods. Remember how well it worked getting poor people to become homeowners by forcing banks to loan to unqualified debtors? Oh wait, wasn’t there something in the news recently about a subprime mortgage and foreclosure crisis? Nevermind.

  7. #7 |  Larry | 

    To me, it’s obvious: unions. Neither fast food restaurants nor Wal-Mart use unionized workers.

  8. #8 |  Danno49 | 

    They can have my french fries when they pry them from my cold, greasy hands.

  9. #9 |  Eric | 

    I don’t think my heart can take much more. The overwhelming control by government and the insane demands by the people are slowly killing me. Maybe we should regulate that too!

  10. #10 |  Dave Krueger | 

    You’re all taking this way to hard. You have to keep things in perspective. In a few years you’ll look back on this and laugh. Compared to what’s happening then, you’ll actually long for the days of so-called food apartheid.

  11. #11 |  Danno49 | 

    Sadly, Dave . . . I am afraid you are right. We’re going to wish for this petty meddling over the outright major interference we’ll be subjected to. And the sad thing is that it will have occurred small step by small step like this one . . . most people are letting it happen without so much as a “Hey! wtf?”. But by then, it will be too late. The behemoth will have too much of a stranglehold to let go. Just think of the ‘temporary’ solution of the IRS.

    Which gives me the segue I need to tell you some things my 7 year old said to me last night. I think y’all will get a kick out of it. Bear in mind, my wife and I keep talk about politics and such around our kids to a minimum. We know they’ll find out the unpleasant truths in due time. Anyway, there was a disturbance around bed time which led me to sit him on my knee and have a talk about the rules of the household.

    Me: “Now son, the rules are there for a reason. Your mother and I don’t make the rules to upset you or keep you from having fun. we make them to keep you safe or teach you manners, that sort of thing. We wouldn’t tell you to do something without a good reason.”

    My son: “Like the government?”

    (I am a little shocked by his precocity – but not too much so – he is quite ahead of the curve for his age)

    Me: “You really don’t have to worry about the government until you turn 18 and leave this household. They will have no control over you, not while you live with me. When you are on your own is when you need to worry about them.”

    My son, kind of angrily: “You mean taxes, don’t you.”

    (at this point, I am fighting back tears)

    Me: “Yes, son. Taxes are one thing.”

    My son, with a very serious look in his eyes: “I want to destroy them.”

    It was at that moment that I began to consider if libertarianism is genetic. I told my wife of what our son had said. She said that they had been studying the beginning of the American Revolution and it’s causes in school earlier that week, so he was probably none too happy with the British of the time and thinking about it when we had our discussion.

    My son gets it. He’s 7.

    Why the fuck don’t the majority of adults?

    Needless to say, I am quite proud of my son and his reasoning abilities at such a young age.

  12. #12 |  Saved the Best for Last « Maspik Teruzim | 

    […] apply but I fail the “consistently” criterion. – Both the Munchkin Wrangler and the Agitator have very wise things to say about the LA fast food ban. Published […]

  13. #13 |  Open Threat | 

    I hate to use this particular word, but you can detect the elitism of this decision from a mile away. It presumes that a certain class knows better than another class what is better for them. Hell, they even come right out and say so in the article!

    I despise Wal-Mart, but I shop there anyway. I simply could not afford to shop at “mom and pop” stores. They charge more due to lacking an economy of scale, and gas is simply too expensive nowadays to drive all over town (and that doesn’t even include the effect on the environment).

    Legislation of this nature will make sure that the only restaurants and grocers that can open in the inner city will be the very ones its residents can’t afford to patronize. To buy food, they will be forced to travel outside their “food zone”; eventually, they will simply have to move to new areas.

    Forgive me for being a bit conspiratorial here, but won’t that leave nice, empty areas in LA, free of those troublesome black people (sarcasm), that can be turned into pristine neighborhoods for “other” sorts of people?

  14. #14 |  Cappy | 

    The movie Demolition Man doesn’t seem so farfetched now, eh?

  15. #15 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    Sadly, mom and pop stores don’t last long in areas like South L.A.. In the parasitic environment produced by entrenched poverty and open drug markets, these places simply become robbery targets. I have advocated co-ops in the past for poor neighborhoods, thinking that the local ownership angle will make thugs think twice about going after community owned ventures. At least in my area, this business model doesn’t appear to deter crime . As for Whole Foods, or other natural foods stores, there is no way in hell they will operate in the ghetto. They will not take the risks that come with opening a shop in a high-crime area. I am not a big fastfood or box store fan, but troubled neighborhoods are probably going to have to accept whatever they can get at this point. The poor will survive, with our without the help of publicity-seeking politicians and activist groups.