The food environment is a complex social network

Soc Sci Med. 2015 May;133:202-4. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.03.058. Epub 2015 Apr 1.


The lack of demonstrated impact of the South LA fast food ban suggests that the policy was too narrowly crafted. Healthy food deserts like South LA are simultaneously unhealthy food swamps; and face myriad interrelated social, economic, and environmental challenges. The food environment is a complex social network impacted by social, economic and political factors at the neighborhood, regional, national, and international levels. Banning one subtype of unhealthy food venue is not likely to limit the availability of unhealthy processed and packaged foods nor result in increased access to affordable healthy foods. Food deserts and food insecurity are symptoms of the interacting pathologies of poverty, distressed communities, and unhealthy global macroeconomic and industrial policies. Policies that seek to impact urban health disparities need to tackle root causes including poverty and the global production and distribution of cheap, addictive, unhealthy products that promote unhealthy lifestyles.

Keywords: Disparities; Environment; Food; Policy; Poverty; Social ecology; Social network; Urban.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Diet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Fast Foods / supply & distribution*
  • Government Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Restaurants / legislation & jurisprudence*