Food deserts: poor, urban areas with limited access to supermarkets. Food deserts were a popular subject of social policy research in the U.S. over the last decade that linked limited supermarket access with high rates of diet-related diseases like obesity, diabetes and hypertension. The research findings awakened a public consciousness about the issue and started an imperative to intervene across the nation. The concept of food deserts drew attention to racial and economic inequalities in accessing healthy, affordable foods. It resonated with a variety of stakeholders and motivated coalitions to bring new supermarkets into poor urban communities. The concept, however, implied only one solution to the problem of limited food access: more supermarkets. This missed a variety of other impacts on a person’s ability to get healthy food. Despite considerable investment over the years, we are in a situation now where we must develop a more holistic approach to truly address the challenges that have come to light as part of the food desert phenomenon.
Dr. Amy Hillier:
Associate Professor, School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2)
Faculty Director, Master of Science in Social Policy, SP2
Senior Fellow, Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics
Senior Fellow, Center for Public Health Initiatives