Hallett IV, L. F., & McDermott, D. (2011). Quantifying the extent and cost of food deserts in Lawrence, Kansas, USA. Applied Geography, 31(4), 1210-1215. https://lms.southwestern.edu/file.php/5760/Literature/Hallett-2011-Quantiying_food_deserts.pdf
The term “food desert” was coined in 1990s in Western Scotland, and by the late 1990s and spread throughout the United Kingdom to represent areas with poor access to affordable, healthy food (Hallet and McDermott 1210). A food desert is a place in the “urban environment of otherwise developed nations that are poorly served by access to healthful food such as fruit, vegetables, and grains” (Hallet and McDermott 1210). Food deserts are primarily the result of human choices, market forces and political processes such as urban planning (Hallet and McDermott 1210). This results in a complex network between transportation services, food retailers, and consumers.
"Food Outlets in Lawrence, Kansas"
In order to quantify food deserts and thereby show the costs and economic impact, the authors examined grocery stores in Lawrence, Kansas. Hallet and McDermott limited their study to full service grocery stores that they defined as having a footprint of more then 30,000 square feet. This was measured using one meter resolution aerial photographs. The authors also considered multi-purpose stores such as Wal-Mart and Target that function both as a retail outlet and grocery store by adjusting it so only the portion of the store that sells grocery items was considered in the process. The map of the location of these stores shows clusters along the main avenues in the South-central and Western portions of Lawrence while specialty stores were predominately located in mostly residential neighborhoods (Hallet and McDermott 1212). Older neighborhoods and the Northeast section of the city did not have any such stores (Hallet and McDermott 1212). In addition, a survey was mailed to four zip codes in the city which asked residents questions such as “how do you travel to the grocery store” and “do you have any idea how far is it to your favorite grocery store” (Hallet and McDermott 1212). Based off these responses and by examining the “gaps” in the data sets obtained through GIS data as well as field data, the authors suggest that 76.1% of the people surveyed live in food deserts (Hallet and McDermott 1212).
In addition to this analysis, Hallet and McDermott used spatial cost surface analysis to determine the cost of traveling to each area. In order to do this, they created a “raster representation” of the roads in the area to determine the cost of traveling across each area (Hallet and McDermott 1212). Each cell was given a transport and opportunity cost of traveling through the cell. A cost distance function was also used to calculate the distance between any cell on the map and the nearest grocery store. This method allowed Hallet and McDermott to calculate the cost of traveling by car or walking to the nearest grocery store.
Areas where consumers spend 10% or more of food budget on travel to grocery store represented by the dashed lines
The results of this study suggest that for an individual who owns a car in Lawrence then there is no food desert as the individual can easily travel to a grocery store with little cost. However, if the individual does not and relies on walking to the grocery store then approximately half of area is “underserved” (Hallet and McDermott 1213). These areas were located primarily in older neighborhoods in Lawrence in the northeast section as well as newer neighborhoods in the southwest and southeast. Underserved was defined was a consumer who had to spend 10% or more of their food budget to get to and from the grocery store (Hallet and McDermott 1212). In their analysis of this, Hallet and McDermott state that the northeast section of Lawrence was heavily developed since the nineteenth century and thus lacks an area large enough to support a major retail outlet (1213). The authors assert that this "poor access to food" in this area can most likely be associated with zoning and planning decisions as well as the development of particular area and the associated development patterns (1213).
Using GIS methods as well as field data, Hallet and McDermott were able to locate as well as quantify food deserts in Lawrence, Kansas. Due to these findings, the authors suggest that similar methods could be applied to other communities and the results taken into account by city and urban planners in planning the location of roadways as well as grocery stores in order to alleviate food deserts.