Sunday, January 31, 2016

Food Desert study in Kansas

   A study was done in Lawrence, Kansas, to determine the presence of food deserts in the city. This study overlaps food studies in geography and GIS to obtain data and analyze it.
   Food desert are defined as "places in the urban environment of otherwise developed nations that are poorly served by access to healthful food," with "healthful food" here referring to vegetables, fruits and cereals (Hallet & McDermott). In order to determine which areas can be classified as food deserts, the authors of this study mapped the relationship between full-service grocers, public transportation, and population demographics.

It's important to note that in their research, the authors cited another study that found that "economies of scale allow food sold in supermarkets to be cheaper and to cover a wider range" than smaller, local, more high-end stores (Hallet & McDermott). Furthermore, the authors cited a study on relations between food, people, and place that found the assumption that "poor household pay less overall for their food" at the sacrifice of the quality of the food that is available to them (Hallet & McDermott).

Hallet and McDermott utilized GIS in their study, creating raster representations of the roads throughout Lawrence in order to help them quantify the cost of each path leading from neighborhoods to a grocery store. They then compared the costs of these paths to average costs of the items purchased at the grocery store to determine the percentage of people's food allowance that goes toward their travelling to the store.

Hallett, L. F., & McDermott, D. (2011). Quantifying the extent and cost of food deserts in Lawrence, Kansas, USA. Applied Geography31(4), 1210-1215.


  1. This is really interesting. When you say that they studied relations between food, people, and place, is race involved in the people category? It would be interesting to see which area was the least advantaged in terms of ethnicity.

  2. How is the raster data limiting the identification of possible food deserts? Is there a common denominator between all of the food deserts that could serve as a possible explanation for their existence?