February 28, 2018

(Food Access Research Atlas) Click to view map

Natalie Turgeman, Alexa Tapia, Sonja Angst

Food Desert Blog

     According to the American Nutrition Association, “Food deserts are defined  as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas.” This is the result of the fact that there are no grocery stores in these rural areas. (USDA) Furthermore, a report prepared for Congress by the Economic Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture, 2.3 million people live more than one mile away from a supermarket and do not own a car. Food deserts are closely tied to social class in the sense that lower class areas suffer from this the most. Studies have found that wealthy districts have three times as many supermarkets as poor ones do. Another thing that was found was that white neighborhoods have an average of four times as many supermarkets as predominantly black ones do, and grocery stores in African-American communities are usually smaller with less selection. (PubMed)

(A market in San Antonio, Tex.)

The USDA’s 2009 study reports that 5.5 percent of the nation’s households (about 5.8 million) live at least half a mile from a supermarket, and 2.5 million are within low-income areas. This group has hit the hardest. 93 percent of people in low-income, low-access areas do their shopping with a vehicle, but the figure remains at 65 percent even when grocery stores are within walking distance (New York Times).


(Food desert cartoon)

 An analysis of “food deserts” have shown that the populations facing the lowest healthy food access are Black, Hispanic, and low socioeconomic status communities. Access to healthy foods is shaped by the racialized construction of places. The substantial under-inclusivity of minority and urban low-income residents in “food desert” areas means that the very populations with the greatest need for food access support, are being politically prevented from qualifying for such support (Tufts).


  1. Am, J. (2002). Neighborhood characteristics associated with the location of food stores and food service places. Retrieved Feb. 28 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11777675
  2. American Nutrition Association. (2015). USDA defines food deserts. Retrieved Feb. 28 from http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/usda-defines-food-deserts
  3. Bornstein, D. (2012). Time to revisit food deserts. Retrieved Feb. 28 from https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/25/time-to-revisit-food-deserts/
  4. Food Empowerment Project. (2018). Food deserts. Retrieved Feb. 28 from http://www.foodispower.org/food-deserts/
  5. Giacalone, S. (2016). The political implications of “food desert” mapping. Retrieved Feb. 28 from https://sites.tufts.edu/gis/files/2016/01/Giacalone_Sydney_GIS101_2016.pdf
  6. Khan, A. (2016). What is a food desert?. Retrieved Feb. 28 from https://www.theodysseyonline.com/what-is-food-desert
  7. Laskow, S. (2013). This sobering map shows you all of America’s food deserts. Retrieved Feb. 28 from https://grist.org/food/this-sobering-map-shows-you-all-of-americas-food-deserts/

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