City council denies ban on fast food near schools

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by TINA SHIVELY / KVUE News and KRIS BETTS / KVUE News

Bio | Email | Follow: @KrisB_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on November 20, 2013 at 11:14 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 21 at 6:01 PM

AUSTIN -- The Austin City Council has denited what's called a "healthy food ordinance" during its Thursday meeting. It would have restricted the type of restaurants that are built around areas frequented by children, such as schools, to encourage healthier eating habits.

In a four to three vote, the council denied the proposal. It came from the recently completed Community Health Improvement Plan. It identifies and makes suggestions on how to improve the health of Austin's citizens.

The healthy food ordinance drew a lot of attention from critics who said it would allow government to get too involved in personal choices like what we feed our children.

Council member Laura Morrison says this measure is bigger than that, and that we need to look at the big picture.

"That's what this is all about is how do we raise the standards? How do we put systemic issues into place so that the overall health of our community can be improved?" said Morrison.

“I don't want people to think we're trying to create some new level of bureaucracy where we're going to go police restaurants and convenience stores,” said ordinance co-sponsor Councilman Mike Martinez. “Texas is a very pro-property right state, so we're certainly mindful of that."

Martinez said the ordinance would have been more about giving incentives for places to sell healthy food.

“If a convenience store offers healthier options, we’d partner with them in messaging that to the community,” he said.

But the ordinance would have restricted new fast food restaurants, convenience stores, even food trailers from building close to schools and other places kids may visit like municipal parks, child care centers and libraries.

Morrison told KVUE she met with fast food franchises Wednesday. She said she called them to let them know that city council was discussing this, and they will not be shutting anyone down.

“I think it's a great idea. I remember as a kid growing up and going to the fast food chains, it was always easy, quick and that's what you wanted to eat. But I don't want my son, as he gets older, to be able to have that access,” said parent Nicole Miles.

“By and large I think it's better when the City doesn't get involved with that, but in this particular case I would support that type of movement,” said parent Phyllis Wolf.

The ordinance did raise some concern about access to healthy options, or the lack thereof.

“Getting a burger and a drink, it's convenient, and to be honest healthy options tend to be really expensive,” said parent Kazique Prince.

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