AUSTIN -- The Austin City Council is considering what's called a "healthy food ordinance" during its Thursday meeting. It would restrict the type of restaurants that are built around areas frequented by children, such as schools, to encourage healthier eating habits.
“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 says the ordinance, if approved by the council and developed under the city manager, would be 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, as it is proposed now, would restrict 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.
“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 does 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.
As for what constitutes as healthy, Martinez said that could be left up to FDA guidelines and the City.
“It would largely rest upon our Health and Human Services Department," he said.
Martinez says city staff would come up with the details, including the exact distance between schools and “unhealthy” restaurants if the council decides to go forward.