Friday, September 5, 2008

Friday Rant - Let's ban thinking next, mkay?

So there've been rumblings about the evils of fast food lately. I'll agree just as much as the next person that fast food is bad for you and it's a factor in our country's "obesity epidemic." But seriously, banning fast food? Now, this ban doesn't threaten current fast food restaurants, but it only would prevent new ones from opening up within the limits of LA County. Councilwoman Jan Perry even seems to think that not opening new fast food restaurants will give people greater food options. And I guess this is the case if the fast food restaurants that didn't open are instead replaced by healthier options (and no, Macaroni Grill and Olive Garden aren't necessarily healthier, depending on what you order). But we can't assume that.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for people eating less fast food. Grease and corn syrup shouldn't be the main staples of our diet. But this isn't the way to do it.

Because obviously people want to eat there, or the fast food places would go out of business. They're not going to stop getting fast food just because there's now one McDonald's per block instead of two. And honestly, I could see some people following the reverse psychology of it and eat there more specifically because they're pissed off at the new law. Who knows. Same psychology that for the show Cupid (inane reality tv show that I watched start to finish, about a woman who lets America pick her husband) made America vote for both the guy she wanted and the guy she really hated in the final. We're an ornery bunch, that we are.

I don't think that making it against the law to open new fast food is going to change anything. While healthy food is too expensive for some people, and fast food is their most practical option, it's not going to change. While fast food still tastes just so damn good, it's not going to change. While people don't have the nutrition info available to them to make educated choices, it's not going to change.

We can't do much about #2 (tasting too damn good). #1 - that food is just too damn expensive and fast food is most financially practical for many people - is a major problem we can address (see my related post on local food here). And as for #3 - nutrition - I don't remember once talking seriously about nutrition in school, and I had a whole year of health education. Looking back on it, I was either staring at the dots on the floor too much, or they really wasted a lot of that time.

Because honestly, banning fast food because it's bad for you? What's next, smoking?

Oh, wait, you say they have banned smoking?! You mean, you can't smoke in any public spaces, restaurants, or bars (at least, in my state you can't)? But hold on, doesn't stopping at a fast food restaurant just impact you and your arteries (yes, I know that obesity does put more strain on our health care system), but smoking will impact your lungs and my lungs and the lungs of everyone around you. Positive side of the smoking ban: all the smokers have to go outside to smoke, so there's a group outside and you can bond and chat people up easily (the one situation where "got a light?" doesn't sound like an ultra-cheesy pick-up line). Smoking is a counter-culture activity, nearly. Fat and grease, not so much.

Ok, how about banning thinking next?

Because the lawmakers must have all our best interests in mind, right? Uh huh. Well, pardon my skepticism, but nuh uh.

How did I get on the side of the fast food companies here? Yikes.


Leah J. Utas said...

We'd have to ban thinking in order for a fast food ban to work.
If folk want fast food they'll go to where it is.
I don't know what the true answer is beyond educating people about nutrition and making it affordable and showing people on our favorite TV programs eating good, real food and liking it. That will do more than any silly ban.

MizFit said...


we'll be in the back alleyways getting our fix for McDonalds fries smuggled in by ex-heroin mules.

The Lethological Gourmet said...

LMAO Miz, that's hilarious!

Leah, it's hard to figure out the right course, but this is such a silly ban.

Maybe I should write a story about an alternate reality where it's fast food that's been banned and proliferates on the black market. Hah.

Crabby McSlacker said...

Well, playing devil's advocate here...

Governments often ban or limit the number of liquor stores or strip clubs or casinos because they're not good for people who can't handle them in moderation. Even though others are inconvenienced by having to go further afield to get their fix.

I really struggle with the issue of zoning. I'm actually one of those icky NIMBY type people--I'd be horrified if the neighborhoods I've lived in started spawning a bunch of fast food places. And part of the reason they haven't is because of aggressive zoning laws.

I don't have any solutions, 'cause I don't like the idea of outright citywide bans--but the ability of local communities to decide what goes where and how many is enough has often worked to my benefit.

WeightingGame said...

from a public health perspective (which is what I studied), banning new incoming fast food places in inner city/poor areas is a smart idea because it addresses the issue of obesity/diabetes/cancer from a socioeconomic perspective. The people who live there eat crao food b/c that's all that's available to them. And the cyle begine. But if there are ways to incentivize healthy establishments to pop up, offering affordable healthy food, then the possibility of improving peoples' health in a way outweighs their "right" to eat fast food. I understand what you're saying about it being scary that the government can control what people eat, but I think their hearts were in the right place here. Inner city areas are not safe for a number of reasons and, as such, you won't see people outside jogging for exercise, or walking places, or gardening/raising their own veggies. It's a HUGE problem that needs to be tackled via govt. infrastructure to start effecting change. In Chicago, one of the worst areas just got a community farm where the kids come and tend to fresh fruits and veggies, then get to sell them at local farmer's markets and also bring them home to their family. THAT'S the kind of change we need!

The Lethological Gourmet said...

WG, I totally hear what you're saying, and I agree that their hearts are in the right place. And if they are using incentives for healthy food in conjunction with the ban on fast food, it may not be so bad. I know that there is something that needs to be done, and incentives and education (as well as crime prevention) do seem to be the best route to go.

Crabby, even given my whole rant on the subject, I totally agree that I wouldn't want a fast food strip mall to open a block from my house either...