Sunday, February 5, 2017

Mapping A Food Desert

This article discusses a food desert and the effects it has on a community. A food desert is defined as “areas lacking retail services within roughly 500 m radius.” This study focused on a town called Lawrence in Kansas. They mapped out the location of all the full service grocery stores, quick service outlet, specialty, and ethnic locations that had varying amounts of food for people to buy.


They then sent out a survey asking people how they got to their favorite food store, car, walking, or public transportation. Another question was, how far their favorite food store was from them, less than a mile, 1 to 2 miles, 2 to 3 miles, or more than 3 miles. Most people replied that they drove to their favorite food store, which “suggests that almost no Lawrence residents with cars live in underserved areas or food deserts.” This makes since because if you have the ability to drive you suddenly have more options of where to shop, while others walked or took public transportation have less options.

This map shows that many people who live in northeast of Lawrence have a harder time getting to food. The northeast is the “greatest concentration of poor residents,” while some may quickly decide that poorer people have a harder time acquiring food this may not be the case in Lawrence because of the “dense road network[s]” there is not enough space for a supermarket and parking lot. This can all be attested to poor planning and zoning of the town.

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


  1. Is it possible that the poorer people in Lawrence occupying the NE area of "dense road networks" preventing food market development is a remnant of some affordable housing or segregation program? The dense, grid-like nature of that area is typical of more modern district designs that have a highly structured layout. This may have been designed to more effectively house a large amount of people in a small space (like with affordable housing), yet had the unintended consequence of limiting the ability to develop supporting grocery stores in the area. It would be interesting to overlay income data or racial demographic data on these maps to determine if this may be an artifact of the segregation era. This would help explain why developers have been reluctant to establish food centers in the area, because on average where incomes are lower so are property values while crime rates are elevated, which tends to discourage developers and lead to the food desert phenomenon.

  2. My first reaction to this is curiosity of what price range of stores are located towards the NE side of this town. It is interesting to look at a map like this and see how big of a flaw this is, however it would have also been interesting if the map would have included the price range of the supermarkets/stores that are located rather than favorites.

  3. I find it very interesting that some sections of Lawrence may be considered as a food desert, as the population of Lawrence is close to 90,000. I think it would have also been interesting to see a map that shows the differences in population density and the availability of grocery stores based on that density.

  4. Seeing as the researchers used surveys to collect their data regarding food deserts, I wonder how accurate the data is. Were the researchers able to get equal distributions of types of participants for their data to be accurate? If so, how did they make sure of this? If not, how could they improve their data collection?