"It's like they set us up for failure" - the impact of structural racism on food accessibility and health in Newark, NJ

Authors: Angelika Winner*, CUNY - Graduate Center
Topics: Geography and Urban Health, Black Geographies, Environmental Justice
Keywords: geographies of health, food justice, mixed methods GIS, urban geography
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 6
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This work examines how structural racism shapes the local food environment and food provisioning practices, store choice, and diet-related health of residents in Newark, NJ. I carried out an ethnography of food provisioning and health by combining qualitative observations in food stores, community gardens, farmers markets, and relevant community meetings with open-ended interviews of residents and food justice activists. I am also drawing on archival research to better understand the structural forces affecting food provisioning and health.

The food desert analysis and the food store census highlighted the importance of residential segregation and redlining on store distribution, inventory, prices, and overall quality. Residents of food deserts are more likely to be black, poor, and on supplemental food assistance than those not residing in a food desert. Food retailers in predominantly black neighborhoods consist mainly of corner stores, whereas predominantly white neighborhoods have much more chain supermarkets offering lower prices for the same food items, a more diverse and healthy inventory, and fresher produce. The archival research additionally shed light on the role of urban renewal projects which intensified residential segregation in Newark. My ethnographic results highlight the many contradictions inherent in racial capitalism that poor black residents have to navigate in their local food environment. Most black participants reported travelling to supermarkets in the predominantly white suburbs outside of Newark because they offer better deals, bigger packages, and are less crowded than the same stores within the city boundary.

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