Publication Date

April 2019

Advisor(s)

Courtney Fullilove

Major

Environmental Studies

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

People in low-income and minority communities often struggle to achieve long-term access to healthy foods – a phenomenon known as food insecurity – and experience higher rates of food-related health issues as a result. While food insecurity is often tied to the geographical patterns of large food retailers (“food deserts”), there are many economic, political, and social factors that exacerbate food insecurity and that must be directly addressed. The “food desert” concept shifts attention toward spatial considerations of food access and oversimplifies the issue. Research that focuses on the significance of “food deserts” supports tax incentive programs that are not only unable to adapt to the needs of specific food environments but can also be influenced by corporate political interests. Many studies have shown that the simple addition of a supermarket to an underserved area is not enough to change the neighborhood’s prominent food behaviors or improve community health outcomes. To truly combat food insecurity, interventions must simultaneously disrupt the cycles of poverty while constantly readapting to unique communities. Neither the supply-side programs that aim to build new supermarkets nor the uniform food-distribution programs run by large organizations can be effective in evolving with the unique characteristics of urban food environments. Using observations of a real food access program support by the Children’s Aid Society and my understanding of the causes and consequences of food insecurity, I am able to distinguish the structural, financial, and social aspects that will allow a program to have positive, long-term impacts on the local food environment. This project concludes with guidelines for a food-based community revitalization program that adapts to the needs of the community in order to empower residents and address the food insecurity issue from multiple angles.

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