This approach to identifying possible food deserts is useful if you have access to GIS and social research tools. It builds on the approach to Food accessibility outlined in food accessibility.
A food desert is an area where people do not have easy access to healthy, fresh foods. This is a particular issue in low socio-economic status areas and where there are members of the community who have limited mobility. Food deserts are an issue of social polarisation and exclusion.2, 3 Consultation with the local community (both residents and local businesses) is important in confirming presence of food deserts and determining suitable approaches to address the issue.
Issues compounding the food deserts as a problem include low income, locational policy of supermarkets with the acquisition of edge-of-town and out-of-town sites, consumer mobility, car ownership levels and food availability.1
Using GIS, it is possible to measure availability and accessibility of supermarkets within defined areas, in relation to:
- Residential dwellings
- Walking distance
- Car ownership
- Community characteristics
- Travel distance along the road network. 3
Other Sources of Information
- Measuring Healthy food access in Sandwell
- Dowler, E., Donkin, A., Grundy, C., Rex, D. 2001, Measuring Access to Healthy Food in Sandwell, Final Report, Summary [Online] available at: http://www.iclei.org/index.php?id=1195
- Furey, S., McIlveen, H., Strugnell, C. 1999, ‘Food Deserts: An Issue of Social Justice’, M/C Journal, vol. 2, issue 6 Oct 1999, [Online] Available at: http://journal.media-culture.org.au/9910/deserts.php
- O’Dwyer, L.A. and Coveney, J. 2006, ‘Scoping supermarket availability and accessibility by socio-economic status’, Health Promotion Journal of Australia, vol. 17, no. 3