Editorial: Towns must act against food swamps to promote healthy eating habits

Fast food places like Arby's, McDonalds, etc. are filling up towns creating "food swamps". (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Pick any somewhat-urban street in America, particularly one close to highway on/off ramps, and chances are it is lined with a surplus of colorful signs that make mouths water. Establishments such as McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell, to name a few, can often be seen clustered around each other, tempting any who pass by.

Such locations in America, those where junk food options outnumber healthy food alternatives are coined “food swamps." Food swamps are common across America and a recent study by the UConn Rudd Center shows that food swamps are a high predictor for obesity in the surrounding population.

The logic behind this finding makes sense, an average American, potentially one who is struggling financially, if given the option between cheap, tasty and plentiful junk food and more expensive and less enjoyable healthy food, would almost always choose the former. When there are environments where fast food restaurants can number in the double digits in a single location, there are major public health concerns.

Obesity is a huge issue in America and across the world. As published in a previous Daily Campus article, the rate of childhood obesity has reached new highs as officials debate how to handle the growing concern. Poor life choices in diet not only lead to a lower quality of life, but increased health complications.

One conclusion that can be drawn from the research done at the Rudd Center is that food swamps should be forced to disperse. One solution to the problem is for town legislatures to make laws limiting the number of fast food restaurants there can be in a given area while simultaneously promoting more healthy alternatives to take their place.

Some towns have already done this. One of many towns in Connecticut to implement this law, Newtown, has long had a ban on drive-throughs in town. Initially in an effort to promote small businesses, it has doubled in function to potentially decrease obesity in the town.

While fast food restaurants can be appealing, and can be used as a treat for young kids, their

sheer prevalence in some areas of the country have led to record-high levels of obesity. While at many levels it is up to the individual to make healthy decisions, town legislatures should make regulations to promote healthy eating to create a healthier America.