Sunday, May 08, 2011

usda's food desert locator map

Good | Yesterday, the United States Department of Agriculture unveiled its latest online tool: an eye-opening map of the nation's "food deserts."

These food deserts (marked in pink above) are places where there is "low income" and "low access"—or places where at least a fifth of the population lives at or below the poverty line and where there isn't a supermarket within a one-mile radius (or within a 10-mile radius in rural areas). All things told, about 13.5 million people nationwide have little or no access to stores selling healthful food.

The complete dataset is downloadable, so it should spawn mash-ups. The USDA has also created the Food Environment Atlas, which maps factors ranging from food taxes to farmers' markets (below). What correlations can we make about the absence of food deserts and farmers' markets?

The data's impressive and certainly opens up opportunities to map other connections: What's the impact of healthy corner stores, walkable school districts, or even McDonald's locations on food deserts? Could we put the "Wal-Mart as food desert solution" theory to the test? Fist tap ProfGeo.


Ed Dunn said...

Actually, any place that does not have access to local farms and agriculture is a food desert. There is an illusion that many affluent areas have an abundance of food, but they can get cut off the food supply very quickly. We saw this in Tokyo as one of the most expensive/wealthiest places to live but they ran out of food and was in panic mode. We also see this in Florida every year during hurricane season among affluent areas in South Florida with grocery stores going empty as well as winter storms preventing trucks from delivering food to the suburbs.

I actually think a "food shortage shock" among white flighters and metrosexuals is way worst than an urban poor food desert because people have to realize "hey, there is no food!!!!"
when it is too late...

CNu said...


My son asked me about how could whole societies/civilizations collapse and go under this morning and my response centered on the fragility of the food supply chain. I expressed to him my firmly held belief that the veneer of civilization is really only about 6 missed primary meals deep.

Miss this many on a large scale and all bets are off wrt what people will do.