On January 18th the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA) released a report lamenting the high ratio of inexpensive and convenient food outlets to farmers markets and grocery stores. Harold Goldstein, executive director of CCPHA, trumpets the findings of the study as "critical to Californians struggling to address the state’s out of control obesity crisis … making the hunt for nutritious options a daunting challenge."Despite Goldstein’s theatrical claims, the study did not actually test for availability of nutritious options. Instead, the group analyzed food vendors based on factors irrelevant to health: number of employees, total yearly revenue, and types of service ("table" or "counter"). Based on these methods, the report’s results found ipso facto that low-cost retailers are more concentrated in poor areas. Surprise!But cheap does not necessarily mean unhealthy. In 1979 Wendy’s introduced the first salad bars to American fast food, and every major chain has followed suit with salad, fruit and other healthy options. So when Goldstein said in a Los Angeles Times article on Friday that "finding healthy food shouldn’t be like looking for a needle in a haystack," perhaps he – like the study – did not consider that it is as easy to buy a salad at a fast food restaurant as it is to purchase a cookie at a supermarket or a pie at a farmer’s market.However, for the food imperialists at CCPHA, what consumers buy does not seem as relevant as where they’re shopping. Disregarding personal responsibility, the group plans to leverage their report to hustle policy initiatives like fast-food zoning and supermarket subsidies. Attempting to rationalize these demarcations, Goldstein instead reaffirms his low opinion of the American consumer by saying, "If I offered you cookies, you would have a choice to have some or not. You wouldn’t say, ‘No, but I’ll have an orange.’"
Make Mine Two Oranges