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Birthplace of the drive-thru bans them to curb obesity

Baldwin Park, Calif., home of the first-ever drive-through restaurant – an In N Out Burger – has banned construction of new ones for nine months in an effort to curb obesity.

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A customer receives an order from the drive-through at In-N-Out Burger in Baldwin Park, Calif., in this June 8 photo. This blue-collar town has banned construction of new drive-throughs in an effort to curb obesity.

Adam Lau/AP

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The southern California town of Baldwin Park – the reputed birthplace of the "drive-thru" restaurant – has put a nine-month ban on the construction of any new drive-in food emporiums.

The In ‘N Out Burger chain, credited with spawning the trend that led to McDonald’s and all the rest, was founded in 1948 in a town now home to some 83,000 residents with a median income of $42,000 – and 17 drive-in restaurants. Local officials say they wanted to tackle not just the traffic snarls inherent in an “in-car” dining culture, but be part of the national campaign to stem obesity – a cause championed by First Lady Michelle Obama.

“We see ourselves at the forefront of the fight on obesity,” says Marc Castagnola, Baldwin Park community development manager. “We also want to encourage people to get out of their cars and walk around,” he says with a rueful nod to the obvious challenge of bucking a southern California car culture.

This connection between fast-food establishments and the expanding national waistline is well-documented. A 2005 study from Johns Hopkins and Georgetown Universities, “The City Planner’s Guide to the Obesity Epidemic: Zoning and Fast Food,” has a section entitled “Connecting the Dots from Obesity to Fast Food and Zoning” that frames the debate. It states that obese and overweight adults cost the US between $98 billion to $129 billion each year in national health care expenditures.

The study points a finger directly at the fast-food industry, saying, “… children who eat fast food compared to those who do not eat it consume more total energy, more total fat, more saturated fat, more total carbohydrates, more added sugars, more sugar-sweetened drinks, less fluid milk, less fiber, less fruits, and less nonstarchy vegetables."

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