Fast Food Vanishes In The Hills

Did you ever think about the lack of fast food outlets in the hills?  As you head up, the fast food outlets disappear from view.  When you drop down to the slants and flats, they return in full force and other options become scarce.

The Montclair District has a few convenience stores and no fast food chains at all.  You have to head down Broadway, to reach the closest Wendy’s.  You can also find Sparky’s Giant Burgers, near Lincoln Square.  Otherwise you are out of luck.

Take a look at this map prepared by the Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD) last year.  It shows the quantity of fast food and convenience stores per 1,000 residents.   The highest concentrations,  in dark brown, are clearly located in the inner cities as well as UC Berkeley.

Oakland Fast Food Density

Our lack of fast food outlets should be a blessing.  Health officials in our county and state have studied the correlations between the presence of junk food and poor health.  If there are more outlets per capita, then there are statistically higher rates of obesity and diabetes among residents.

Last April, the California Center for Public Health Advocacy released a study showing 20% higher rates of obesity and 23% higher diabetes in places with RFEIs above 5.0 versus below 3.0.  RFEI, which stands for retail food environment index, calculates the ratio between junk food outlets and grocery stores/produce vendors.

The evidence is irrefutable, and the state-level study says that bad RFEIs cause equally bad health outcomes – whether these outlets are located in high or low income places.  We are what we eat, and if the junk food isn’t available then we don’t fall prey to it.

Throughout Oakland, the way to fix things isn’t to literally shut down all the fast food places but to add better options into the mix.  When we hear about farmers’ markets getting set up or a new grocery store opening, that’s cause for celebration.

More info: The Alameda County Public Health Department conducted a thorough study about health and social inequities, including Food Access & Liquor Stores.  The California Center for Public Health Advocacy released their Designed For Disease study, including policy brief, county ranks and methodology links.