"Desertification, Desertion, Democracy? Nutritional Entitlements, Spatial Justice and the Right to Food in Appalachia and Beyond."

Authors: Thomson Gross*, Department of Geology & Geography, Bradley Wilson, West Virginia University - Geography Program
Topics: Rural Geography, Economic Geography, Geographic Information Science and Systems
Keywords: food deserts, food justice, GIS, entitlements,
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Grand Ballroom D, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The concept of the food desert is widely used in food justice research to spotlight and analyze the flight of grocery stores in low income communities and to describe areas in which there is limited access to retail food outlets that stock nutritious affordable, adequate and culturally appropriate foods. Much of the literature on the subject describes the food desert problem primarily in market-based terms. It follows that many of the solutions to the problem quickly turn the focus on attracting new retailers and collective action to build alternative food economies from the ground up. Yet they often do not account for the major role that federal entitlements play in the food ways of the urban and rural poor. Our research shows that for low income communities that depend upon entitlements such as SNAP, WIC and TEFAP the problem of food deserts is also intimately tied to retail concentration, capital mobility and the way that federal entitlements flow through a food system. In other words, the distribution of nutritional entitlements through private retailers with little public accountability at the federal, state, local or personal scale is also a significant part of the food desert problem. In this paper we explore the spatial relationship between retail capital, federal nutritional entitlements, and communities in West Virginia to understand how food justice advocates might effectively mobilize communities around the discourse of a place-based right to food that includes both greater democratic control over the retail landscape and the freedom to use nutritional entitlements.

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