Transit Access to Subsidized Food Stores in the American Midwest

Authors: Amber DeJohn*, University of Toronto
Topics: Food Systems, Transportation Geography, Medical and Health Geography
Keywords: food insecurity; transport poverty; transit access; SNAP
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 2:25 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Governors Square 16, Sheraton, Concourse Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In the United States, low-income and racial minority populations have higher rates of diet-related disease, food insecurity, and transit usage. The US government addresses gaps in food procurement for food insecure Americans via the SNAP program, which provides low-income households with money that can be used on food at authorized retailers. This study seeks to understand how transit networks affect access to participating SNAP retailers by using OpenTripPlanner to calculate transit travel times to all SNAP stores within 1-hour transit of neighborhoods in 33 metropolitan areas in the American Midwest. Low-income, Black, Hispanic, and public assistance populations, which are disproportionately affected by issues like food insecurity, living in neighborhoods with low transit access scores are then identified. These neighborhoods are also compared to those the USDA classifies as having low access to healthy food retail. Results indicate low transit access is experienced in fringe-urban neighborhoods that are generally white, affluent, and car-dependent. However, 117,460 Black people, 121,589 Hispanic people, and 89,185 low-income people live within these neighborhoods in the examined MPOs. Future research and policy should develop strategies that account for lower levels of transit access to SNAP retail in more suburban and exurban regions to accommodate a non-negligible portion of potentially food insecure populations that live in these areas.

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