Health Care Reform’s Sleeper Victory is Fast Food Calorie Counting

By Juell Stewart Mar 25, 2010

Though it’s no substitute for supermarkets with fresh produce, The New York Times reports an overlooked element of Tuesday’s health care reform law: Beginning as early as next year, fast food chains with more than 20 outlets nationwide will be required by federal law to post calorie information on their menus and drive-throughs. The new policy—which mirrors a nearly two-year-old New York City law—will hopefully have a positive effect on communities of color, where fast food restaurants fill the nutritional gaps left by the absence of grocery stores. According to a 2004 report in The American Journal of Preventative Medicine, predominantly-black neighborhoods had nearly 60 percent more fast food restaurants per square mile than predominantly-white neighborhoods — meaning that though the law will affect every fast food chain in America, its impact may be greatest in Black communities. Without adequate access to healthy food, frequent trips to McDonald’s can become a staple for some families, because of convenience, affordability and availability. We know the results by now: Frequenting fast food establishments has led to disproportionate incidents of obesity and Type-2 diabetes among communities of color, as highlighted last week in PolicyLink’s "Grocery Gap" report.