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City Council rejects healthy food zone proposal

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You can lead a child to vegetables, but will you force them to eat?

"With the tripling of the obesity rate over the past 30 years, in the United States, we are now at a point where a child born today has a shorter life span expectation than their parents. That's the first time that's happened...and that calls all of us to the table," said Austin City Councilmember Laura Morrison.

Morrison is a strong supporter of the Community Health Improvement Plan known as CHIP.

She also supports a resolution under CHIP that would establish a healthy food zone ordinance around schools, municipal parks, child care centers, libraries and recreation centers.

"Fast food's being attacked, but they have created healthy menu options," said Skeeter Miller, the President of the Greater Austin Restaurant Association.

He says the healthy food zones would directly impact fast food restaurants, also known as quick service restaurants.

"The quick service restaurants should have been taken out of the resolution and it should be all restaurants and convenience stores, as a whole, need to be included in the conversation to create healthy food zones," said Miller.

The resolution to start healthy food zone discussions was shot down by a vote of 4 to 3.

"Consumers want healthier options. We're providing healthier options. We're adapting core menu items, adult items and children items," said Allen Benton, who's family owns several McDonald's chains in Austin.

Benton said, "I think we need to have the conversation of healthy lifestyles. We're going to be a part of that conversation."

"We're totally behind CHIP and a healthy food program," added Miller.

City officials say, the healthy food zone proposal is part of CHIP, which has already been approved, so the topic can be brought up for discussion sometime in the future.

Morrison said, "The CHIP recommendation, specifically, is that all municipalities in Travis County take a look at this, so, you know, it'll be a broader conversation."

Just like with meal choices, it's all about finding the right balance of government-lead health resolutions.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell added his own two cents about the resolution, saying it takes the city down the path of regulating businesses and telling people how to live their lives.

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