To follow up on Dawn O’Brien’s post about the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), I just wanted to post a link to the USDA’s Food Desert Locator. This program maps out areas that are considered food deserts within the United States based on census data. Here is how the USDA defines a food desert:

“The 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:

  • To qualify as a “low-income community,” a census tract must have either: 1) a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher, OR 2) a median family income at or below 80 percent of the area’s median family income;
  • To qualify as a “low-access community,” at least 500 people and/or at least 33 percent of the census tract’s population must reside more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store (for rural census tracts, the distance is more than 10 miles)”

While this topic is extremely important, I was a little disappointed that they only consider access to “supermarket[s] or large grocery store[s]” when there may be other sources of local food within an area. Isn’t access to farmer’s markets, small grocers, and family farms just as important as big grocery stores?

What do you think?

Check it out here: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/FoodDesert/

-written by Rachel Burmeister, Internship Coordinator 2011-2012

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