Exploring Food Access Across the State of Indiana: A Computational Approach

Authors: Hannah Wilson*, Indiana University Bloomington, Belen A Rogers, Indiana University Bloomington, Erica L Nantz, Indiana University Bloomington, Angela M Babb, Indiana University Bloomington, Daniel Curtis Knudsen, Indiana University Bloomington
Topics: Applied Geography
Keywords: Food insecurity, Location, Spatio-temporal constraints, Computational approaches
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Madison A, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

As geographers, we are sensitive to the manner in which spatial location and time constraints complicate access to affordable food. The very poorest Americans navigate food insecurity by spending cash, utilizing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and other government programs, and making use of food pantries. Being food insecure opens the door to a set of complex decision-making problems that have both commodity and spatio-temporal dimensions. Commodity decisions include deciding what items to spend cash on versus SNAP benefits and what items are best received from a pantry. Spatio-temporal dimensions include travel times to work, shop, and access pantries, as well as pantry hours of operation and pantry-specific rules concerning visits. In this project's initial phase, food access outcomes were determined for various composite families in several locations in southern Indiana. The families were rotated across different geographical settings – urban, small town, rural – and we were able to determine how location affects a family's ability to find affordable food that meets their dietary needs in part due to pantry restriction and transportation limitations. In the second phase of this project, we further our ability to perform a locational analysis by looking at cities in every major region of the state of Indiana. In addition, we look further into time specific restraints placed on impoverished families. It must be noted that the theoretical and computational approach we utilize is a good complement, but not substitute for, detailed ethnographic work.

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