Fast Food = Slow Death In South LA Food Wars In South LA

There's an epidemic in South LA, and it's not what you may think. Local residents with young people, elderly people, and expecting mothers and families of their own are all facing the same issues when it comes to food. There are two main crisis that are affecting people of color living in South LA the most: the lack of grocery stores available and the amount of fast food chains that are prevalent.

A+J's Mini Market

The first problem is that there are too few grocery stores available to the people of color living in South LA. This causes people to have to either settle for the “leftover garbage” that is sold in these stores, or travel more than 10 miles outside their neighborhoods to get decent food to feed their families. This uses up time and energy and transportation costs that these families have to spend out of pocket. Amelia Jones, a full-time stay at home mother, says that “It is so hard for me to find decent food to prepare meals for my family. The grocery stores in our neighborhood are so spaced out, it's like they’re not even there. I really do try to support them but the food sold is awful.” When asked about why she doesn’t like to shop at grocery stores in South LA, Ms. Jones said, “The fruits and veggies don’t look that very well, and a lot of the foods have bad products that I don’t want to feed my family. Our insurance is very costly and the long term effects of eating chemicals puts my family’s health in serious danger.” And she’s right when it comes to how hard it is to find a decent supermarket in South LA that serves people of color.

According to an article by the Community Coalition, “....according to a 2010 report by research group PolicyLink, low-income neighborhoods have half as many supermarkets as wealthy ones and only 8% of African Americans live in a census tract with a supermarket compared with 31% of whites. In many communities, the lack of access to nutritious food contributes to serious public health problems such as diabetes and obesity.” And with this being said, the problems only get worse. Since these “scarce supermarkets” are not supported or shopped at as key players in the South LA food chain, obtaining food for various diets, before or after diseases have been contracted, or hard to find.

Ms. Jones said being a single mother makes it even harder on her to feed her children better foods. “Having to travel far distances tires me out and kids are going to be kids you know; after they eat all the healthy but expensive snacks I manage to get them from grocery stores in the [better] neighborhoods, they revert back to eating these no good snacks sold around us.” According to a KCET article in May 2013, “...if there are no customers, there are no stores -leaving large numbers of folks without easy access to fresh foods. In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, they’d have to travel further and further away from their home until, at some point, it simply became unreasonable to do so, causing their diets to suffer in the process.” And in all reality, some people may not be able to travel outside their neighborhoods that frequently or at all; and this equates into bad health and other illnesses and complications.

But, the trouble doesn’t end there. According to an article by WebMD by Daniel J. DeNoon, African Americans are more than 60% more likely to get diabetes than white people, contract high blood pressure at earlier ages, and are more than 4 times more likely to suffer strokes. An article in May 2015 by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that Latinx/Hispanic people have a 50% higher chance to die from diabetes or liver failure than white people, and the leading diseases for Latinx/ Hispanic people are cancer and heart disease and the leading factors for them is obesity and cigarette smoking.

But even with these scary statistics, African American and Latinx neighborhoods suffer the worst when it comes to how many fast food chains are available. Walk down any main street in South LA, and you’ll find more fast food chains competing for business than you can count on your hands, and these places are always full. Bustling with people of all genders, sizes, and ages, fast food chains such as McDonalds, KFC, and Jack In The Box are feeding people high caloric, greasy, sweet, and fake foods, that turns into health problems up the road in a person’s lifetime.

Addison Johnson, a current freshman at Los Angeles Trade Tech College majoring in Criminal Justice/ Pre Law said that it is very hard for him to get decent food to eat, especially as college student. “I try to keep groceries in my house, but with roommates who don’t respect boundaries and having to uber those extra miles to get food that I can eat because I’m vegetarian, its super hard. I’m a college student, and it's easier to go get a McFish sandwich and some fries, and keep it moving -like why not?” “I know this stuff isn't healthy but it makes me full and it's cheap. I can get a slice of cheese pizza with chips and a big gulp from AM PM or 711 for under 5 bucks, or get a 5 dollar combo box from Taco Bell,” he said.

And why is fast food so popular and prevalent in the community? Because when there is a lack of healthy and affordable options, one is more than likely to walk into any of the hundreds of fast food establishments and buy food that is advertised at low prices and that seemingly "tastes good". “It keeps money in my pocket and me full as kid just trying to make my dreams come true of getting out the ghetto of South LA," Johnson stated.

And when it comes to how many fast food restaurants you can run into on any given intersection or stretch of street way, there is a ton. Between the intersection in South LA of Vermont & King all the way to Vermont & Washington, a distance of simply 2 miles, one can count 17 fast food restaurants serving the community food that comes with many health risks associated with it. And the vicious cycle doesn’t end there. These establishments make so much money that they are here to stay in the South LA community and as Mr. Johnson said, “I don’t see any of this happening in the better neighborhoods...when they [people living in better neighborhoods] eat fast food, it’s some kind of treat for them; with us [people living in the ghettos] it's a lifestyle.”

Created By
Aljzana Hobdy-Clayton


All photos taken by me

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