Thursday, January 9, 2014

Food Access: A Spatial Analysis of Food Deserts and Farmers’ Markets

Lisa Morse, Environmental Studies Program

Recent studies have drawn attention to issues of food security in regards to areas that are considered “food deserts.” While there are multiple definitions for food deserts, this study will apply the definition used by the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which defines food deserts to be low-income census tracts where a significant portion of the residents have low access to supermarkets or large grocery stores. Low access is defined as being located more than 1 mile away from a supermarket in urban areas and more than ten miles away from a supermarket in rural areas. Researchers from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have developed useful maps and data detailing areas that are defined as food deserts. For this study, a spatial analysis will be conducted to compare how access to farmers’ markets varies in areas defined as food deserts and non-food deserts. Since farmers’ markets have been gaining much popularity due to the increased demand for fresh and local foods, it is advantageous to see where these markets are located in relation to the actual need for healthy foods in the communities. Social and economic demographic data will also be evaluated to provide a deeper analysis of the inequalities surrounding food access to both supermarkets and farmers’ markets.

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