Food Desert- Myth or Reality?

Authors: Shruti Khandelwal*, Michigan State University, Zeenat Kotval-K, Michigan State University, Kendra Wills, Michigan State University, Kea Norrell Aitch, Michigan State University, Julia Darnton, Michigan State University
Topics: food systems, Urban and Regional Planning, Qualitative Research
Keywords: Food Desert, Accessibility, Affordability, Perceived Barriers, Michigan
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: Download



Food insecurity can lead to poor health outcomes. Families with low access to food, purchase less healthy and nutritious food, and consume more unhealthy foods. The research investigates three Michigan cities for percentage change in USDA identified census tracts as food deserts between 2010 and 2015 followed by further enquiry into the perceived barriers to the access to and purchasing habits for fresh and healthy food items for household consumption. Census tracts designated as food deserts increased more than five times in Grand Rapids during the study period, while Saginaw City and Warren saw a slight decrease in the census tracts designated as food deserts. Additionally, the current location for community farmers’ markets were layered on the food desert identified census tracts to highlight the areas with no access to any healthy and nutritious food products within the tract limits. Four census tracts void of healthy food options within the tract limits in Grand Rapids were identified to further investigate the selected areas to speak with residents to understand consumer barriers to access fresh and healthy foods. Using mail survey and in-person interviews in four selected areas, the analysis illustrated affordability as the main perceived barrier for majority of the households on SNAP or some food and nutrition assistance. Along with this, access to seasonal produce and awareness of local food retail entities were also identified as barriers to the consumption of fresh and healthy produce.

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