Reducing Exposure to Unhealthy Food

Food environments that contain more unhealthy food retail options than healthy food retail options are referred to as food swamps. Policies that increase the availability of local retail certainly help address food swamps by increasing the number of healthy food retail options in comparison to unhealthy food retailers. However, policies that reduce the prevalence of unhealthy food retailers are also key players in the effort to shift the ratio of food retail options toward healthy food retailers.

Unhealthy Mobile Vending

Image of a food cart selling burgersSince unhealthy food trucks tend to sell fatty, fried foods, the American Heart Association recommends considering the following local ordinances:

                      • Ban food trucks from operating near schools.
                      • Limit the locations at which food trucks are allowed to vend using zoning codes.
                      • Limit the times during which food trucks are approved to vend.

Without certain considerations, these efforts could negatively impact healthy mobile food vendor initiatives. One way to address the problem is by creating separate mobile licenses for those vending produce and those vending an assortment of other foods. Then each license type could be managed separately under local laws.

Zoning to Limit Fast Food

Image of a fast food restaurant.According to an evaluation of local zoning laws around the country, there are several ways to use zoning to reduce the proliferation of fast food restaurants. Cities can ban the future development of fast food within specific zones entirely. Another option involves limiting the overall number of fast food outlets allowed. According to this ordinance, once that number of fast food restaurants are established anywhere in the city no more fast food development will be allowed. Communities can also work to reduce the density of fast food outlets by requiring a certain distance between each fast food outlet. Working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, ChangeLab Solutions created a model ordinance to help communities legislate a healthy food zone.

Methods to Address Sugar Sweetened Beverage Sales

Image of three examples of sugar sweetened beverages: lemonade, soda, and an energy drink.Recent efforts to decrease unhealthy food consumption have targeted sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs). According to the American Heart Association, these drinks are one of the biggest contributors to unhealthy diets. As such, some municipalities are using SSB taxes, often referred to as soda taxes, to decrease consumption of these sugary drinks. Beyond taxation, there are other options to influence the sale and distribution of these drinks. Zoning and licensing regulations can be used in a similar manner to fast food restaurant regulations in order to decrease the amount of locations that can sell SSBs in designated areas. Other efforts focus more on regulating the display of beverages, so that retailers must design their environments in ways that promote the healthy beverages they offer over those that are classified as SSBs.


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