Target: Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell
Goal: Support an ordinance that would establish a healthy food zone surrounding youth-oriented establishments
Forty-four percent of children grades 3-12 in Austin, Texas are at risk from obesity. A full thirty-two percent are considered to be at high risk. In an effort to drive down these alarming statistics, the Austin City Council is considering an ordinance that creates a “healthy food zone” in the immediate areas surrounding youth-oriented establishments such as schools, libraries, parks, and child care centers. The ordinance would ban any future building of fast food restaurants in the area, but allow existing restaurants to continue operations. If the ordinance passed, it could play a significant role in the lowering of childhood obesity rates.
Some argue that creating fast food-free zones deprives consumers of choices and undermines the responsibility of parents to determine what their children should eat. However, residents have relatively little say over whether or not a fast food restaurant opens in their neighborhood, and therefore must express their disapproval publicly in order for their concerns to be considered. Residents proved that they care about this issue in a recent petition filed against the proposal to build a market that would sell high calorie foods and alcohol just outside the established perimeter that prohibits the sale of alcohol.
A ban on the building of new fast food restaurants in south Los Angeles, imposed in 2007, resulted in a significant drop in obesity and diabetes rates over the next four years. If parents want their children to have fast food one evening, there is nothing in the ordinance keeping them from doing so. They will simply have to drive outside of the healthy food zone.
In a city with high childhood obesity rates, this ordinance is a positive step toward establishing healthier eating habits. With it, we could see lower child obesity rates and better health overall. Support the ordinance to create healthy food zones around schools and other youth-oriented establishments.
Dear Mayor Leffingwell,
The ordinance being considered by the Austin City Council to establish a zone around schools in which no new fast food restaurants may be built is a positive step for public health and combating childhood obesity. The childhood obesity rates in your city are alarming. Forty-four percent of children in Austin public schools grades 3-12 are at risk from obesity. Thirty-two percent of children are considered to be at high risk. The proposed ban could be a great way to lower these startling statistics.
A similar ban was placed on neighborhoods in south Los Angeles in 2007. Four years later, both obesity and diabetes rates were found to have fallen. While other factors probably contributed to this drop, it is reasonable to believe that the lack of new fast food restaurants played a role. If your city enacts the proposed ordinance, the results could be significant. In an effort to combat childhood obesity, we support the ordinance and the healthy food zones it would create.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Robin Corps via Flickr