Mapping Food Access

Open Access
Steiner, Claire Renee
Area of Honors:
Interdisciplinary in Community, Environment, and Development and Geography
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Anouk Patel, Thesis Supervisor
  • Theodore Roberts Alter, Honors Advisor
  • Roger Michael Downs, Honors Advisor
  • Cynthia Ann Brewer, Faculty Reader
  • food
  • desert
  • food desert
  • access
  • security
  • availability
  • map
  • index
  • Philadelphia
  • obesity
  • transportation
In many of America’s inner cities and rural areas, there exist areas known as “food deserts.” These are places where there are few or no grocery stores selling fresh, nutrient-dense food. That is: access to healthy, culturally appropriate food is limited. And yet, fast food and convenience stores flourish. There has been a plethora of studies and maps made to try to understand, affect policy on and educate the public about this issue. Gottlieb, et al. (1996) examined food access and distribution. Goldsberry et al. (2010) surveyed and quantified fresh produce in Lansing, Michigan and Alberquerque, New Mexico. Schafft et al. (2009) explore food distribution's effect on childhood obesity. Most maps of food deserts take into account two parameters- distances to food and income level. This approach shows the viewer these two factors, but not the level of food access. Yet, knowing the level of food access is pivotal for assessing critical need and planning initiatives. Despite this inferred simplicity, the issue of food deserts is extremely complex. Because food access is based on location, it is a spatial phenomenon, and maps are useful tools to more easily view and understand it. This thesis sets out to create a map to quantify food access to show the related complexities and uncertainties. It hopes to contribute to a richer understanding of how people access food and to a more localized policy design process.