Monday, February 2, 2015

Food Deserts Lawrence, Kansas, USA

   There have been strong criticisms from social theorists towards Geographic Information Systems regarding the apparent "lack" of real-world social application. This case study, from Lawrence, Kansas, connects spatial relations regarding food access to the social reasons for this spatial relation. Food deserts, as defined in this case study, are geographies which have a lack of access to affordable adequate (healthful) food. Previous case studies regarding this spatial relation have revealed that there is a trend for out of town super markets. This in turn creates "food deserts" because people who can only afford transportation have access to these super markets. Below is a map portraying food outlets available in Lawrence, Kansas.

This case study was limited to viewing full service grocery stores (more than 30,000 sq. ft.). The area of the retail stores was used by taking aerial photos provided by the National Agricultural Imagery Program. The map revealed that there are areas within the city which have no grocery stores. The majority of the grocery stores are located on main avenues within the city. A survey was sent out to random households in four different zip codes. The survey asked questions such as "how do you travel to the grocery store?", "how far are you from your favorite grocery store?" etc. 
    A cost surface analyses was conducted in order to illustrate with a spatial model the cost of traveling from one point to another (consumer to grocery store). The total cost of travel to get to a grocery store was measured and then compared with the total expenditures on food to illustrate areas in which people were disproportionately spending on food. An analyses of this spatial model suggests that about half of the community lives in food deserts. These areas are mostly concentrated in the older neighborhoods in the Northeast and newer neighborhoods in the Southeast and Southwest. This analyses suggests that poor access to food is closely associated with planning and zoning decisions. These maps are helping to make food deserts a priority and place responsibility onto someones shoulders. They can be used for further urban development and zoning decisions in order to ensure everyone has equal access to healthful food. 

Hallett, L. F., & McDermott, D. (October 01, 2011). Quantifying the extent and cost of food deserts in Lawrence, Kansas, USA. Applied Geography, 31, 4, 1210-1215.


  1. This study demonstrates issues that relate to many rural areas surrounding the Williamson County area. Similar to Louisiana, families who can afford transportation are be able to go to an effective grocery stop, but to extend that idea there are families who have only one form of transportation, which is used for an individuals responsibilities to work.

    1. Kegan did a great study on food deserts in Louisiana with some interesting results backing up what you said. Something you should chat with him about.