Fast Food City

Friday, August 01, 2008

Dr. Carla Wolper, Dietitian at the Obesity Research Center at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital, and Rick Sampson, CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association, discuss the banning of new fast-food restaurants in certain parts of Los Angeles, and whether a similar plan would work in New York.


Rick Sampson and Dr. Carla Wolper

Comments [66]

Leon Freilich from Park Slope


Spit 'n' polish mark the decor
Once you pass the restaurant door;
But gripe your steak's not as you wish,
Get a glob of spit in your dish.

What you asked for was, No onions?
Bang! the size of Paul Bunyan's bunions;
And the salad you've looked forward to
Has a bug that's coming toward you.

Yet you can't eat home in the kitchen
Even if your spouse would pitch in;
High-end stove, so gleaming in looks,
Filled to the brim with dusty books.

So your options are circumscribed
Warding off what was described.
There, however, is safety at hand:
Have your meals at a sidewalk stand.

While you watch the curbside chef,
Honest Jack, Abdul or Steph,
Prepping food that's free of spittle,
Rejoice! They'll make you fit as a fittle.

Aug. 02 2008 02:30 PM
Steve from Clifton NJ

I don't believe that banning fast food will not accomplish anything. I agree that obesity is created by eating and lifestyle patterns that are learned at home. That's the case in my life. Everyone in my family (kids and parents)has a weight problem and none of us eat fast food. Our very busy school and work schedules (along with a dash of lazyness) keep us from excercising. We love good food and have enough money to afford "too much" of it. We eat at least 5 balanced family dinners at home together each week and they are just too tasty. We have been eating too much at each meal and capping off the day with a post 10:00pm bowl of ice cream. Too many great reastaurants, great family dinners aand mid winter comfort food binge outs has left us with an array of food addictions and portion control issues that we are struggling to grapple with. I think many American families have similar problems. By the way I was in France last year and out of curiosity visited a shopping mall in a mid sized town. There was fast food and food courts just like U.S. The peeople were definitly slimmer though. I think they just eat less.

Aug. 01 2008 05:33 PM

I have not read his work but now i am going to look for it, thanks!

Aug. 01 2008 04:43 PM

Come on, Mr. Sampson is the CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association! Ever watched "Thank You For Smoking"?

Aug. 01 2008 04:11 PM

fast food isn't bad. not moving is bad. just get the fatties moving and ta da. cure all. if you're gonna ban fast foods, you might as well ban cars and public transport in these places. make all the fatties walk

but.. that's just another step towards the nanny state

Aug. 01 2008 03:38 PM
Christina from Manhattan

36, O - thank you I have already taken your advice of not eating at the 'restaurants'. Doesn't that undermine the restaurant representative's constant (false) repetition that he's just giving people what they want and filling consumer demand. I don't think he has a clue what people want.

Aug. 01 2008 02:48 PM
O from Forest Hills


Have you ever read any of Frederic J. Vagnini's work, he is a Cardiologist here in NY that I know and respect his work. He talks about the interaction of insulin with our bodies and works towards helping prevent Type II Diabetes and heart attacks, stroke, etc.

Aug. 01 2008 02:40 PM

Good point, and I agree with you on land availability. I'm against the corn subsidies as they are now.
But don't forget that lack of activity plays a role in almost all of the issues you cited as being linked "garbage in the food system currently: cancer... diabetes, ibs, heart conditions, hypertension, even chronic constipation." People don't realize that with activity (and it doesn't have to be some lame cardio-heavy Jane Fonda workout, it could be walking or light swimming or yoga) there is a decrease in the release of stress hormones. There's a scientist named Esther Sternberg who is investigating the relationship between stress hormones and a lowered immune system, and even arthritis. But I suspect you already are aware of that, I just thought I'd put it out there because I like her work.

Aug. 01 2008 02:24 PM
lucy from new jersey

Eva, but if there were farm land available for producing fresh vegetables and healthily raised animals the price of those items would go down and be more affordable. Instead our tax dollars are being given to farms to raise a single crop (or at most 2 crops if you include soy) which squeezes out production of more healthful items. I agree lack of activity is a gigantic risk factor for obesity but there are so many other problems when you combine lack of activity with the garbage that is in the food system currently - cancer, lack of micronutrients, diabetes, ibs, heart conditons, hypertension, even chronic constipation.

Aug. 01 2008 01:46 PM

I think you're overly focused on corn. It's a giant problem, but in terms of obesity, it's only part of the problem.
The reality is that lifestyles have become fantastically less active, there are no longer physical education programs, urban kids "play" indoors with x-boxes instead of on playgrounds, etc. etc
Lack of activity is as big a factor as poor diet. And poor diet isn't ALL about corn. It's also about availability of and demand for fresh produce.

Aug. 01 2008 12:44 PM
lucy from new jersey

Until we stop subisdising the production of corn so that fast food consisting of items fried in corn oil and beef fattened on corn and soda which is exclusively corn is the cheapest way to provide a large number of calories there will be no change in the eating habits of anyone and particularly the poor. Education is a part of the battle but we need to stop paying farmers to produce the raw materials for these obscene "meals" and encourage them to produce something healthful for the population. Only then will our waistlines start to shrink and the golden arches will start to disappear.

Aug. 01 2008 12:34 PM
Betty Arce from Bronx, New York

It's not just the fast food chains but there is the plethora of greasy fried chicken joints & chinese take-outs in poor neighborhoods. Many poor and working families depend on these places as cheap alternatives when moms can't get home in time to prepare dinner or kids are left on their own to make decisions about their meals. I've seen kids ordering white rice for $1 and pouring duck sauce on top. Educating families about the link between nutrition and health is key. There are also cultural preferences for high-fat, carbo-laden foods that need to be "lightened" up. Same with sweets, sodas and sugary fruit drinks that find their way into baby bottles. As a Latina, I know. I grew up on heaping plates of rice and beans made with lard, few or no vegetables, fried meats. I learned to cut back on these foods, not eliminate them, reduced meat consumption, added more fish, changed from cooking fats to olive oil, no more frying, and increased consumption of vegetables. But this took several years, exposure to various cuisines. Not something that poor people have the luxury to do. Yeah, it would be great if some enterprise would open up a low-cost chain of healthy fast foods that are family friendly, provide a place for kids to run around, offers happy/healthy meals for kids. The fast food chains are not the only culprits and banning them won't make much of a dent if we also don't have viable alternatives.

Aug. 01 2008 12:19 PM
Nicole from Manhattan

Rick Sampson says no one is putting a gun to the fast food customer's head. However, by serving as a major cause of the skyrocketing levels of obesity among people insured by my insurance carrier, these fast food restaurants are effectively putting a gun to my head by forcing me to pay rising premiums to cover the costs of these people's obesity-related diseases. The health habits of others affect all of us.

Aug. 01 2008 12:17 PM
JT from NYC

But Aaron, that's a practical plan that makes sense...Much more fun to scold and lecture!

Aug. 01 2008 12:14 PM

Back when the South was about hard labor in the fields, cotton or otherwise, that heavy food made a heck of a lot of sense.
When we changed our lifestyle, it became lethal. The same thing is happening in China right now with Diabetes Type II. It's blowing up as people leave the farms for the cities.
I totally agree with you on how attitudes toward overweight people contribute to obesity. When I was in high school, the guys spray-painted "NO FAT CHICKS" all over the school, and it sent a large number of girls into yo-yo dieting. Some of those girls are still fat, thanks to those stupid diets. It was ridiculous. We need to get people to recognize that the real enemy is a poor diet and a lack of physical activity. Actually, exercise PRIMES your cells to make insulin, so it really helps to guards against Type II, even if you're overweight.

Aug. 01 2008 12:10 PM
Ken from Manhattan

The restaurant rep. is not recognizing or admitting:
1) the creation of demand through advertising,
2) that fast food pricing is so low that many poor people find it an all to attractive option,
3) that once tried the almost addictive affect of sugars and fats
4) the pervasive up-sell in terms of the size of the portions.
But education and awareness through clearly posting understandable nutritional content are definitely needed.
See films like "Fast Food Nation" (of course) and "King Corn" and one will understand the manipulation by industry and the complex, even complicitous, relationship between industry and government.

Aug. 01 2008 12:10 PM
Liv from Manhattan

Thanks Brian Lehrer Moderator.
I am back listening after being away for 5 months and I have to say the tone has changed on this page. It reads like a bad chat room sometimes and certain posters are personal in their remarks.

Aug. 01 2008 12:08 PM
Michael from Long Island

The consumption of fast food is a reflextion of our culture. How do we change the culture? Make consultaion with a nutricianist a requirement for cheaper health insurance. The people that make the healthiest choices should pay the least in insurance!

Aug. 01 2008 12:07 PM
Ayanna from Brooklyn, NY

I think Christina was saying shut up to the guy on the show who was like a restaurant lobbyist or something, not to another commenter.

Aug. 01 2008 12:07 PM
Gregory Cohen Frumin from Park Slope

Mike, did you really just make a comment like "first they came for the pizza, then they came for the fried chicken, and then they came for the hamburgers, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me" ???
Maybe you're thinking of something else, but to my ear that makes a reference-via-rhetorical-device to a much graver tragedy of history, when PEOPLE were being exterminated, as opposed to multinational unhealthy fast food chains. If I'm hearing something unintended, then may this be informative. Otherwise, please allow me to ask you to be more careful about the stylistic similes you make.

Aug. 01 2008 12:05 PM
Michael from Long Island

The consumption of Fast Food is a reflextion of our Culture. How do we make this cultural change? Make it an requirement that people meet with a nutricanist annully. In return they pay less for health insurance. The people that make the healthiest choices should pay the least for insurance.

Aug. 01 2008 12:03 PM

With no fast food and no supermarkets, where will poor people buy good food? In Norwalk CT, there are no supermarkets in the poor southern area. People have to take two buses to get to the store, and they can only buy as much as they can carry.

Aug. 01 2008 12:01 PM

Milo! Or, as Alan Arkin screamed when he learned his parachute had been sold to M&M Enterprises, "MILO!!!!!!"
Actually, I thought it was not about making things tasty, but about the absurdities of government enterprise, partic in the military. That is, chocolate covered cotton ain't even remotely tasty.

Aug. 01 2008 12:01 PM
Chris from NJ

A lot of this is a cultural thing. Fast food is typically fried foods, which traditionally were very popular in the South, where many of the urban poor hail from.
Southern diet to this day is still very unhealthy.

Aug. 01 2008 12:00 PM
BL Moderator from nyc

Sorry Christina we can't allow you to say "SHUT UP" that's not nice of you. You have been deleted.

Aug. 01 2008 12:00 PM
O from Forest Hills



Thanks for clarifying that. I am onboard with you about the dangers of obesity. Sorry I misunderstood you.

I get frustrated with seeing people be mean to someone fat on the street or the subway. Being mean to someone for being fat will not make them want to lose weight and will most likely, emotionally make them want to eat more.

Aug. 01 2008 12:00 PM

Poor people are not stupid they are just poor. Are they going to ban plastic surgery in Hollywood? People treat their bodies badly, so whats new.

Aug. 01 2008 12:00 PM
World's Toughest Milkman from the_C_train

Those patients got fat before fast food.

Aug. 01 2008 11:59 AM

Poor neighborhoods often have inadequate supermarkets, amny places are lucky to have a small deli with canned meat. Fast food is actually a better alternative for these people, who have no other access to better food. Take the money you're spending on cracking down on fast food, and instead spend it on opening a good supermarket with fresh vegeables, bread, and meat.

Aug. 01 2008 11:59 AM
Ron from Bronx

Rick's logic is faulty...if you followed his logic in bars we would continue to serve drinks to a drunk just because he wanted it.

Aug. 01 2008 11:58 AM
O from Forest Hills

# 28,

Then don't eat the food if you don't want it!

Aug. 01 2008 11:58 AM
Brian Lehrer Moderator

Hey Guys,

Just a reminder to please keep your comments respectful, civil and on topic (in step with WNYC comment posting guidelines)


Aug. 01 2008 11:58 AM
Suzanne from Plainfield NJ

I agree with the last poster, that we should tax fast food, and subsidize vegetables for the poor. (And that Mike Pecsa is a great host). A health education program should be part of the federal universal healthcare, so that Americans will make better choices. The truth is that the LA "ban" is not a full ban, its a hold for 1 year so they can explore options. Panera Bread is a good example of a fast food restaurant that's healthy.

Aug. 01 2008 11:58 AM
Steven B. from New York, NY

People are short sighted. They consider consumer choice but fail to realize the costs to society as a whole. We have a huge problem with obesity, heart disease, and so on. Every person at risk for diabetes or heart disease raises the health insurance, medicare and medicaid costs for everyone else. Think of the number of missed days of work, the number of days in a hospital. Al-queda won't bring America to its knees, unhealthy eating (and failure to exercise) will.

Aug. 01 2008 11:57 AM
optionsguy from Staten Island

The health cost impact of consumers making poor choices makes this more than just a problem on a personal level. What about a health tax on unbalance fast food choices?

Aug. 01 2008 11:57 AM

Thank you for writing that. It's awesome that you love your boyfriend. And if you read my posts, I'm not picking on fat people. I'm asking that we recognize the dangers of obesity - which are multiplied many times for the poor.
If you don't believe me, please, please, please go and work in an underserved community as a health care worker. Or go and work in an ER where a lot of poor people have to go for healthcare.
Diabetes Type II is a serious and seriously debilitating condition, and it is also killing the budgets of urban areas. The issue is not just overweight, but inactivity. Active overweight people are much less at risk than inactive overweight people.

Aug. 01 2008 11:57 AM
raul from nyc

what about school cafeterias?

maybe food education should begin there, that's a place where government could influence food choices...

Aug. 01 2008 11:57 AM

It reminds me of Milo Minderbinder's idea to take care of the cotton glut by coating cotton balls in chocolate and selling them to the army. It's not food but if he could of made it tasty enough it would have worked.

Fast food is barely even food.

Aug. 01 2008 11:57 AM
Christina from Manhattan

SHUT UP! You are not filling consumer demand! You are providing 'food' at the lowest possible price, cutting corners on health. There would be no profit in serving healthy food.

Aug. 01 2008 11:57 AM
World's Toughest Milkman from the_C_train

What is Rick Sampson's take on the trans fat ban in NYC and now all of CA??

I totally agree with Rick on this issue.

Aug. 01 2008 11:57 AM
Vickie from NYC

I’m a smoker who was angered when the city took away the rights of business owners to determine whether or not they would allow smoking.

And even though I’m a smoker, I’m a fit healthy eater who never partakes of fast food.

Glad to see that the inane liberal fascination of controlling everyone’s life is spreading.

First they came for the smokers, then they came for the fast food eateries, and then they came for….

Aug. 01 2008 11:56 AM
Ayanna from Brooklyn, NY

Yes, please limit the number of these places going up in poor neighborhoods. Enough already. Just how many McDonalds do we need? My three year old has already started asking for it, though I can count on one hand the number of times we've given it to her in her young life. But marketing is a b*tch. And the ubiquitous presence of these places is part of their marketing strategies. DO NOT even get me started on Happy Meals. They are really Marketing Meals, targeted at toddlers. At least you can get it with fruit and milk now.

Aug. 01 2008 11:55 AM
Chris from NJ


Aug. 01 2008 11:54 AM
SAM from New Jersey

Having lived in Harlem for 5-6 years, I can attest to the fact that you can't really find a decent meal there. There should be zoning laws to prevent there being so many fast food restaurants in one area.

Also if people have food stanps, a certain amount should be alloted to vegetables only.

By the way, a salad at Wendy's, etc is much more expensive per calorie that anything else on the menu.

Aug. 01 2008 11:54 AM
hjs from 11211

what about school lunches

Aug. 01 2008 11:54 AM
World's Toughest Milkman from the_C_train

Fat and overweight parents usually have fat and overweight kids, I see it all the time.

Aug. 01 2008 11:53 AM
O from Forest Hills


many people have hormone problems or emotional issues, they don't just "get fat".

We need to lay off picking on fat people. It is considered a "choice" to be fat so your attitude contributes to the larger attitude of society that if someone is fat, they must be going to pig out palaces and we can treat them like garbage.

I don't think so. My boyfriend is fat, it is not his fat and he is wonderful, sexy and gorgeous and I love him the way he is.

Aug. 01 2008 11:53 AM

Why are our children allowed to leave the schools at lunch to go get McD's anyway?

Aug. 01 2008 11:53 AM

guest just asked: why do they frequent the restaurants? because they're surrounded by them. because if you're poor and depressed, a donut provides temporary relief and long-term illness.
The woman who just called in about the zoning laws and limiting these junk food places is spot-on.
Let's bring in fresh vegetable and fruit carts.
The guy who says there are healthy 'offerings' at McDonald's is kidding himself. No real nutritional value in a McDonald's salad. Just less deadly than the burgers.

Aug. 01 2008 11:53 AM
Enrique from Elizabeth NJ about: the ppl became addicted to
fast food after they tried it?
and then, the fast food industry grew
exponentially? is not because of CONSUMER DEMAND!!! Is another example of successful pasturing of the less informed.

Aug. 01 2008 11:53 AM
sf from nyc

ban this

Aug. 01 2008 11:53 AM
Chris from NJ

Poor people can find healthy food at a reasonably cheap price in any of the cities I've lived in. I'm very busy but I prepare my own food almost every day. Main problem is they are not educated about the dangers of poor eating. This is why poor are more likely to smoke.

Aug. 01 2008 11:52 AM
Leo in Staten Island from Staten Island

Whether or not we ban these restaurants, clearly this is an opportunity to not only encourage better nutrition, but also to encourage local and minority-owned businesses. We should be giving big tax breaks and other incentives to local businesses that serve healthy food in low-income communities.

Add in green markets and nutrition education and you've got a recipe for healthier communities, economically and physically.

Aug. 01 2008 11:51 AM
sf from nyc

I dont understand why people freak out when one word of their free speech is in question but no one cares that NYC local Govt wants to tell you what you can eat!!!!!!!!!???

Seems brainless of people with freedom, to let this go unchecked.

Aug. 01 2008 11:51 AM
Mike from Park Slope

Lets get it right here. This is not a full ban but a temporary ban in a particular area. I see this more as a means of urban planning to allow other restaurants to come in than an attempt to close all fast food restaurants.

Aug. 01 2008 11:51 AM
Steve (the other one) from Manhattan

I am as liberal as they come, but this nannyism is getting ridiculous. First my favorite restaurant/bar closes because of the smoking ban - now it's a Duane Reade, as if we need more of those. Trans fat I can understand, but banning certain types of restaurants?

Aug. 01 2008 11:50 AM

WHY is there not a fast-food franchise that ONLY serves healthful foods? If we knew everything on the menu was healthful, tasty and still low-cost, in today's market it ought to be a run-away.

Aug. 01 2008 11:49 AM

Michael Winslow,
Thanks for your concern, but a couple points.
1) fast food isn't "cheap" for poor families, just look at the prices for a single meal
2) given the damage that all that heavy fried food is doing, fast food is actually COSTING poor famillies
3) How do I know this? I worked in health care. Most of our patients never had to be sick - they had just gotten fat. It's an unbelievably steep drop after that.
4) Diabetes Type II is a SERIOUS DISEASE. It's not something you just "live with." How do you get it? a) obesity b) poor diet, including fast food and c) lack of activity and d) non-Northern European genetic inheritance - so non-whites, who tend to be less wealthy, are also more vulnerable to this costly and life-threatening disease.
5) high-fiber rice and beans, which is the staple of the traditional diet for many non-northern europeans peoples, whether it's tofu and rice if you're Asian, or chick pea beans and rice if you're Middle Eastern, is CHEAP as heck. THAT's what everyone should be eating, and it's a lot cheaper than McDonald's. And it has a low-carbon footprint.

Aug. 01 2008 11:48 AM
O from Forest Hills

Get rid of Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, get rid of all of them in NYC and no more pizza and obesity will drop by 40% the first year.

Aug. 01 2008 11:47 AM
amanda from hoboken

JT, you're right.

but how might we go about accomplishing healthy food readily available at all price points?

it's definitely a very complicated topic--but i think there are a lot of good options and good ideas.

Aug. 01 2008 11:47 AM
Liv from Manhattan

Have you seen McDonald's ad response to this? Slower music, fresh veggies rolling across the screen to form that iconic Golden Arch and the WILD claim that their food is fresh and healthy. PLease. I think if you're stuck for fast food then Wendy's is the best you can do. I also agree with the comment about the poor. It's sad but true.

Aug. 01 2008 11:47 AM
JT from NYC

Would you tax expesive, well prepared food that isn't particularly healthy? How about butter and cream at the grocery? I guess one could figure out which fast food isn't so bad(no tax on the salad, unless you take the dressing. Then we tax both!)

How about educating people and making sure healthy food is readily available at all price points? (You'd have to forget all that "eat local" nonsense for around here.)

Aug. 01 2008 11:27 AM
amanda from hoboken

michael, eating healthfully is not limited to shopping at whole foods. green markets and fresh produce stands can be surprisingly affordable!

these are just two examples of affordable healthy food but the problem (as is often discussed on this show) is that they do not exist in many "poor" neighborhoods of new york. thus, you're right. "poor" people are left without options. but, what about subsidizing these options--like bringing green markets to these neighborhoods, like anne suggested, so that they are even more affordable for "poor" people!

Aug. 01 2008 11:20 AM
amanda from hoboken

anne, i often wonder the same thing re: taxing fast food! why haven't we heard much of that conversation?

i'm okay with the whole trans-fat thing, although it makes me nervous that we are heading down that ever-dangerous "slippery slope." i would much prefer taxes--people still have a choice AND we could help alleviate some health care costs (or your idea of subsidizing fresh food).

Aug. 01 2008 11:05 AM
michael winslow from INWOOD

Banning Fast food will devastate the poor.

I don't think people who go to McDonalds are saying to themselves "I know I should go to whole Foods and get fresh vegtables and prime meat for my family but we love Fast food and getting fat more".

Where will poor people eat?????

Aug. 01 2008 11:01 AM
Anne from Manhattan

Rather than banning fast food restaurants, why not make fast food more expensive? Slap a big tax on fast food (like we do cigarettes) and I'm sure fewer people will eat it.

Some fast food is just as dangerous as cigarettes, increasing the risk for obesity and heart disease.

Then use the fast food tax to subsidize fresh food options in low income neighborhoods.

(Also, today's host is one of my favorite guest hosts!)

Aug. 01 2008 10:48 AM

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