Data and Maps
Data on Access to Healthy Food and Health Impacts. PolicyLink and The Food Trust released a report, The Grocery Gap, that highlights the results of a review of more than 130 reports and articles on the issue of access to healthy food. Key findings include:
(See The Grocery Gap for a full analysis of the relationship between food access, diet, and health.)
Mapping Access to Healthy Food and Health Disparities. Some communities working to address the problem of access to healthy food have used maps to highlight disparities. For example, the map below shows that in low access, lower-income areas, residents travel longer distances to supermarkets than other residents in higher-income areas. Though Jefferson County is only 19 percent African American overall, in areas with low access to supermarkets the population is 68 percent African American.
Based on maps created by the Community Farm Alliance in 2006 and The Reinvestment Fund’s low supermarket access analysis. For more information on The Reinvestment Fund’s methodology, see www.trfund.com/financing/realestate/EstimatingSupermarketAccess-1pg.pdf.
Maps can also be helpful in making the case for the relationship between access to healthy food and health outcomes. The three maps of New York City below show that many areas with high supermarket need also have high percentages of residents consuming no fruits and vegetables, and high rates of diabetes and obesity.
There are existing resources that can be helpful in identifying local food access challenges:
The USDA has released a food desert locator that shows census tracts the agency considers food deserts. The Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) working group defines a food desert as a low-income census tract where a substantial number or share of residents has low access to a supermarket or large grocery store:
The USDA also has a food environment atlas that provides county-level statistics on food choices, health and well-being, and community characteristics.
The Reinvestment Fund’s helpful PolicyMap shows Low Access Areas, defined as areas that are underserved by full-service supermarkets, and have significant grocery retail leakage and demand. This PolicyMap tool accounts for population density and car ownership in determining the areas that are underserved. It also identifies clusters of underserved low-access census tracts, which provides information about need and potential market viability.
Other organizations such as Social Compact, LISC MetroEdge, and Mari Gallagher Research and Consulting Group have conducted assessments of local food environments. In addition, many community-based organizations conduct local community food assessments.
The PolicyLink chapter, Community Mapping for Health Equity Advocacy, also includes helpful mapping tips and information.