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Pulling into the thoroughfare to order a burger and french fries is becoming more difficult in some American cities.
In August, Minneapolis became the last city to pass a ordinance banning the construction of new through windows. Similar legislation restricting or prohibiting the ubiquitous windows has also been adopted in Creve Coeur, Mo .; Long Beach, California; and Fair Haven, N.J.
Most prohibitions focus on limiting emissions, reducing rubbish, improving pedestrian safety and improving walkability. In Minneapolis, City Council President Lisa notes that the ordinance fits into Minneapolis 2040, a plan for growth and development that includes achieving an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
But such legislation is also sometimes promoted as an opportunity to create healthier eating environments and slow down obesity. In a study that analyzed implementation bans in 27 Canadian cities, researchers noted, "health promotion and prevention of chronic illness is a public health benefit in implementing statutes for fast food service delivery."
In South Los Angeles, where an estimated 45% of the 900 restaurants in the area served fast food and nearly 37% of adults and 30% of children were overweight, a 2008 regulation prohibiting opening or expanding standalone fast-food restaurants and through windows fell in to curb that health epidemic.
In the report, "The Town Planner's Guide to the Obesity Epidemic: Zoning and Fast Food," researchers support the idea that zoning can help protect residents from low-calorie, low-fat foods and cold vehicles – by banning "a logical and convincing justification for regulating fast food by regulate laws to protect the public health from the devastating obesity epidemic. "
Roland Sturm, senior economist at RAND, a nonprofit nonprofit research company, calls the term ridiculous. Proponents of the bans often put potential health benefits, he explains, but there is no evidence to back up those claims.
Fat rates went up, not down, after South Los Angeles banned new freestanding fast food restaurants and drive-by windows according to research published in the journal Social Science and Medicine 2015 . Sturm, the lead author, notes that the degree of overweight and obesity continued to climb during the three years following the ban.
"We have to be careful not to overstate what these bans can do," Sturm says. "If we want to lower obesity and want people to get healthier, [drive-through bans] will not achieve it."
The move really seems to be less successful than other legislation aimed at controlling calories and reducing obesity. Soda taxes were linked to a 52% reduction in the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among low-income consumers in Berkeley, California. Evidence of the influence of menu labeling is less clear, but some studies have found that it affects the number of calories. in meals bought at fast food restaurants.
Hank Cardello, head of the Hudson Institute Food Policy Center and author of Stuffed: An insider's look at who (really) does America Fat and how the food industry can fix it, warns against trying to deal with obesity with legislation is a super big task.
The bans are not intended to abolish fast food. Existing through windows are often exempt from bans, and customers can still get out of their cars and venture inside to grab and take tacos, burgers, chicken tenders and milkshakes. In the absence of a workout option, well-known customers can order their dinner through an app like Uber Eats or GrubHub, which Cardello says he thinks could be worse for the environment.
Change, he argues, must begin with industry, not local lawmakers. New research published in The Lancet medical journal implicates the food industry to drive obesity and climate change and suggests that global brands such as McDonald's and Coca-Cola be restricted from engaging in political discussions.
"Instead of banning workouts, we have to put pressure on restaurant chains," Cardello says. "As an industry, they have not stepped up to make a commitment to cut calories and improve nutrition … to make eating more healthy. a standard choice. "
Jodi Helmer is a journalist and beekeeper in North Carolina who often writes about food.