Moving beyond one-sided explanations of food deserts: A mixed-methods assessment of the food environment in Newark, New Jersey

Authors: Angelika Winner*, CUNY - Graduate Center
Topics: Urban Geography, Geographic Information Science and Systems, Qualitative Research
Keywords: Urban food environment, mixed-method GIS, redlining
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: Download



This work examines and attempts to explain differences in the spatial distribution of food retailers in Newark, NJ, by assessing the local food environment with a mixed-methods approach. I have conducted a GIS-based spatial analysis delineating low-income areas with limited access to full-size food retailers, known as food deserts, from other areas with ample access to food stores. This allows me to compare store counts and types between census tracts classified as food deserts and those that are not. I have carried out a food store survey in four study neighborhoods comparing store inventory, prices, and services. Additionally, I am drawing on qualitative store observations and archival research about history of zoning and racial covenants in the study neighborhoods to gain a deeper understanding of my empirical findings. Residents of food deserts are more likely to be black, poor, and on supplemental food assistance than those not residing in a food desert, and stores are less likely to be owned by a community member. Food retailers in poor and predominantly black neighborhoods are mainly corner stores, convenience stores, or independent grocers, whereas wealthier, predominantly white neighborhoods exhibit a much larger number of chain supermarkets. I found that in predominantly white or in higher income neighborhoods prices are lower for the same food items and the inventory is overall more diverse and of better quality. My findings point to the importance of residential segregation and redlining in Newark’s spatial distribution of stores, store prices, and quality and diversity of store inventory.

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