Published on February 7th, 2009 | by Rhonda Winter20
Beyond Food Deserts: Mapping Racial Disparities in Access to Healthy Food
A recent article published in the Journal of Planning Education and Research measures and maps the racial disparities in neighborhood food environments. Do communities of color have less access to healthful food sources like grocery stores and farmer’s markets?
The article, written by Samina Raja, Changxing Ma and Pavan Yadav, postulates the question: How does healthy food access in neighborhoods of color differ from those in other areas? Specifically, they test the hypothesis that:
The Bayview Farmer’s Market in San Francisco, California
“…access to different types of food retail destinations, located within a five-minute travel time, in predominantly black and mixed-race neighborhoods differs from that in predominantly white neighborhoods, while controlling for factors such as income, population, and area of the neighborhood.”
Their SUNY based research actually shows that indeed disparities do exist. Communities of color generally have to travel farther to access large grocery stores, and are more dependent on small corner stores, which are often more expensive and offer limited variety.
“We find an absence of supermarkets in neighborhoods of color when compared to white neighborhoods. Nonetheless, our study reveals an extensive network of small grocery stores in neighborhoods of color. Rather than soliciting supermarkets, supporting small, high quality grocery stores may be a more efficient strategy for ensuring access to healthful foods in minority neighborhoods.”
The study suggests a number of methods in which municipalities can combat the existing racial food access disparities. The researchers propose that:
“…local governments support existing food businesses (small corner stores) and encourage networks between grocery stores and local food producers of healthful food (such as farms, community supported agriculture operations, urban farms, and local bakers).“
The research encourages supporting local economies of scale and regionally produced food. More local food production has significant potential for helping to supply healthful produce in minority neighborhoods via distribution throughout a network of small grocery shops.
Encouraging existing neighborhood corner stores to carry regionally grown pears instead of processed pork rinds, and creating localized farmer’s markets may be viable tools to better improve community food security and help bring healthy affordable food to everyone.