The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted on May 2 to approve the Safe Access to Alcohol and Food Establishments (SAAFE) ordinance, a motion presented by Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Hilda Solis, which will update the operating standards for retail stores in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County that sell alcohol, to also offer access to healthy foods.
For over a year and a half, Social Model Recovery Systems has worked with the Los Angeles County Departments of Regional Planning and Public Health, on informing the public, gaining retailers' input, and garnering community support for the SAAFE ordinance. A series of public meetings, surveys oriented toward local community members and business owners, and visits to homes and businesses in the County's unincorporated areas were used to gather input on the proposed SAAFE ordinance.
"We applaud the County for taking this groundbreaking step and hope other regions will follow," said Zelenne Cardenas, Director of Prevention Services and Community Liaison, Social Model Recovery Systems. "Alcohol sales impact our neighborhoods and it was the community, including local residents, business owners and social service providers that directed this effort."
Studies have shown that communities with a high concentration of alcohol sales are at risk for more alcohol-involved car crashes, higher incidences of alcohol-related deaths, and/or greater exposure to violent crime leading to an overuse of hospital emergency rooms.
"We recognize that there is an over-representation of liquor stores in many communities of color in LA County," said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. "There is strong evidence connecting violence and accidents with the easy availability of alcohol and our neighborhoods deserve better."
The goal of the SAAFE program is to give neighborhoods more access to healthy food options. Retail stores that sell alcohol will be encouraged to sell a variety of fresh produce and whole grains. These healthy products would also need to be displayed in high-visibility areas.
"Many of our communities are 'food deserts' lacking locally available healthy foods which is unfair and unjust to our families that live there," said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. "Making healthy food available at conveniently located liquor stores will give residents healthier food options as well as help keep our communities safe."
The ordinance intends to address nuisance issues associated with alcoholic beverage sales uses that were legally established before the County began requiring a conditional use permit and increasing access to healthy foods.
Social Model Recovery Systems is a multi-faceted human services organization providing services in both Los Angeles and Orange counties. It also operates two community-based alcohol and drug prevention programs in East Los Angeles and the Central City East area (commonly known as Skid Row) in downtown Los Angeles. In addition, its Education Services Department provides training and consulting services to organizations throughout the state of California. For more information, visit http://www.socialmodelrecovery.org