Community pushes for healthy food choices in South LA

L.A. Councilman Bernard Parks speaks at a community forum at Second African Methodist Episcopal Church in South L.A. about finding healthy alternatives to fast food in the area, August 12, 2010
L.A. Councilman Bernard Parks speaks at a community forum at Second African Methodist Episcopal Church in South L.A. about finding healthy alternatives to fast food in the area, August 12, 2010 Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Residents concerned about the impending expiration of a fast food moratorium in South Los Angeles gathered at the Second African Methodist Episcopal Church to explore how to promote and adopt a healthy lifestyle in a region short of healthy options.

With the region's fast food moratorium set to expire September 14, organizers told the community members that a plan to find alternatives to fast food remains the focus.

Gwendolynn Flynn, of the Community Health Councils Incorporated, said that such a plan is currently moving through City Hall, but that it won't likely be complete until sometime next year. A coalition of community activists is also pushing for a city ordinance that will limit fast food establishments in the region, organizers said.

Presenters included officials from the city planning department, the county public health department and Councilman Bernard Parks, whose Council District 8 falls within the boundaries of the interim control ordinance on fast food.

"Our community is stricken by cigarettes, smoking, obesity and childhood diabetes. All of those things are food-driven," L.A. Councilman Bernard Parks said. "If you don't give them the option of alternatives, they will keep eating only the options that are available."

Organizers at the event spoke of bringing in more healthy dining establishments, farmers markets and grocery stores to combat the prevalence of fast food eateries.

According to Community Health Councils, more than 70 percent of the restaurants in South Los Angeles are fast food outlets.

Reverend Mark W. Gory of the Congregational Church of Christian Fellowship said finding healthy food choices in the poverty stricken region of South L.A. isn't the only problem. He said such options aren't affordable to the people on public assistance who need them the most.

"Yes, we would like to eat healthy, but we can't afford it," Gory said. "They might want to buy healthy items, but they wouldn't be able to survive purchasing healthy items."

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