Sunday, September 8, 2013

Challenging the Implications of a Food Desert

Food deserts have become a hot topic in recent years when discussing sustainability, food cultures, and class. A food deserts are areas in developed nations which are in a relative area of exclusion when it comes to physical and economic barriers to access healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits, and cereals which are needed to form a healthy diet. This study focuses on one food desert in the United States, Lawrence, Kansas and maps, surveys, and studied Lawrence's relationship with food resources. Lawrence is a very small city, so the analytical methods used were tested throughly. Stores such as gas stations and food outlets which do not offer food with a significant nutritional value are indeed in many of these areas, but they are not what is needed to form a healthy and livable lifestyle.

One other factor which was taken into consideration during this study was the mode of transportation for the families that live in these food deserts to get to a healthy food source. They divided people up into four groups, people who walked, people who took public transportation, people who carpooled, and people who drove themselves. Along with these groups came other factors, if one walked, there was only so many bags they could carry, if one took the bus, the amount of bags in which they carried was limited, if you carpooled, you were limited by the amount of time the person who drove you had, and if you drove yourself, you had to pay for gas, meaning less money to pay for food.

Aside from transportation to actually acquire the food, one must consider the food miles (farm to consumer miles) that are attached to goods within a food desert. Consequentially, the transportation of the good to the food desert consumer, usually decreases the quality of the good just because it takes exponentially longer to get to the store. Within the food system, the food miles attached to different goods effects and manipulates both costs and nutritional value of the food. To accurately determine the cost variation “a cost model was created to calculate the cost variation between the distance from the stores, the mode of transportation, and income” (1212).

Much like physical deserts, food deserts do not have definite lines. However, what does make up the dividing line is food outlets, individual dietary preferences, and the transportation means available for the consumer. The cost model above, can be applied to inner city neighborhoods, segregated communities, and other rural areas, much like the city of Lawrence. 

Works Cited

Lucious F. Hallett IV, D. M. (2010). Quantifying the Extent and Cost of Food Deserts in Lawrence, Kansas, USA. Applied Geography, 1210-1215


  1. I like the way that GIS can be applied to this issue in a variety of different geographic locations, and its ability to demonstrate the differences that modes of transportation also play in it.

  2. Research and information on food deserts has become quite accessible to people who want to educate themselves, especially in the form of GIS. Responses to food deserts include food trucks, community gardens, and an increase in public transportation. It would be interesting to analyze the effect of these responses in current food deserts, and see how effective they have been.