Ethnography of food and health in Newark, New Jersey: An intersectional study of food environments, shopping practices, geographic access, and their entanglements with food and health inequities

Authors: Angelika Winner*, CUNY - Graduate Center, Juliana Maantay, The CUNY Graduate Center - Lehman College
Topics: Geography and Urban Health, Food Systems, Urban Geography
Keywords: geographies of health, food justice, mixed methods GIS, urban geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Director's Row J, Sheraton, Plaza Building, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This work examines how the local food environment and class, race, gender identities modify food provisioning practices, store choice, and health of residents in Newark, NJ. I delineated low-income areas with limited access to full-sized supermarkets, known as food deserts, from areas with ample access to food stores within a GIS to compare the local food environment, food provisioning practices, and health of residents within and outside of food deserts. I carried out a food store survey comparing store inventory and prices across selected neighborhoods. I am conducting an ethnography of food provisioning and health based on participant observations in food stores and alternative food projects combined with open-ended interviews of residents, city administrators, and food activists. I am also drawing on archival research on zoning and redlining practices to better understand the structural forces affecting food provisioning and health. Residents of food deserts are more likely to be black, poor, and on supplemental food assistance than those outside of a food desert. Food retailers in predominantly black neighborhoods and in food deserts consist mainly of corner stores, whereas predominantly white neighborhoods feature more chain supermarkets offering lower prices, a more diverse inventory, and fresher produce. While preliminary findings of my ethnography show little difference in health status of residents in food deserts versus non-food deserts, they highlight the importance of economic factors constraining food provisioning practices, store choices, and health. My work points to the importance of residential segregation and redlining in explaining spatial inequities in urban food environments.

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