November 9 2011
Fast food is blamed for a lot of things: obesity, bad parenting, and too much soda consumption, among others vices. And generally, fast food is thought to be responsible for the rising obesity rates among the nation’s poor and minority populations because those demographics are thought to rely heavily on cheap and ready-made fast food.
But a new study is throwing a wrench in that conventional wisdom. The study, conducted by a professor at University of California at Davis Medical School found that the richer you are, the more you indulge in fast food meals. The professor looked at the eating habits of 5,000 Californians and found that as their income increased, so did their hunger for fast food meals.
This study is important for several reasons: first, it destroys the food nannies’ favorite talking point--that they work to regulate the food industry (specifically the fast food industry), in order to save poor people from the dangers of fast food.
The study also raises interesting questions about the latest efforts to limit fast food restaurants. This year, in South Los Angeles, the City Council unanimously passed a regulation that would effectively ban fast-food restaurants from opening in South LA. The reason? To save people from their urges (for yummy fast food) and to encourage healthy neighborhood restaurants to open in poorer parts of the city. But, according to this new study, such bans really aren’t necessary.
Efforts to ban these restaurants in certain neighborhoods are wrong on several levels—it’s patronizing, and represents a paternalism that is both creepy and vaguely racist. More importantly, it’s unnecessary as these bans are clearly missing the group of people visiting these establishments the most.