Lexington’s food desert

This is really neat.  The website below maps out places that don’t have easy access to food either due to lack of stores or adequate transportation.

Here’s a screen cap map of Lexington’s food desert – the purple areas.  Note how it’s north of Main, inside Loudon and around the Manchester Street area. These are the areas we must work to bring good food to, either in a conventional store, or via food trucks, carts, farmer’s markets etc…Below it is a map showing the food deserts in the region.  Note how Lexington is the only city with a problem.  The other food deserts are in very rural areas.



New tool maps and grades ‘food deserts’ to lure supermarkets

Map of USA new tool maps Low-Access Areas — those where residents can’t easily get to a supermarket — around the U.S.PolicyMap

Earlier this month, in a piece for our Feeding the Cities series, Stephanie Paige Ogburn explained how urban “food deserts,” areas without grocery stores selling healthy food and fresh produce, came to be:

Talk with healthy-food advocates in urban centers across the country, and frequently, you’ll hear the same story. It goes something like this:

Once upon a time, this city was full of grocery stores. Then came urban renewal/an economic downturn/a mass exodus of the wealthy and, one by one, the groceries closed up and moved to the outskirts of the city. Since then, there have been Safeways/Krogers/Publix that have set up shop here and there, but they all end up leaving. Now we have 100 liquor stores for 25,000 people in this part of town, and the closest these stores come to selling fruit is the Arbor Mists in the drink cooler.

For an area to be a true “food desert,” it needs not only to be sans a full-service grocery store, but also populated primarily by low-income families that don’t have cars or easy public-transit access to stores outside their neighborhood.

A very interesting new tool has just been released by The Reinvestment Fund, a community investment group (which played a key role in the much-emulated Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative), working with the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. It layers data about supermarket presence with income levels, public-transit commuting, federal nutrition and housing program participation, and other key demographics to pinpoint those communities it calls Low-Access Areas — those most affected by the lack of a full-service supermarket.

The point of the project isn’t just to map food deserts, it’s to help TRF and other investors, as well as policymakers, calculate how much money is “leaking” from an area (being spent elsewhere), so as to evaluate whether a loan for a new supermarket is a good idea — financially, presumably. As Stephanie covered in her piece, food-justice advocates disagree on whether small, independently owned but somewhat limited food stores are the answer, or chain stores such as a Safeway or Walmart.

Alas, the tool does not include data for health care expenditures or obesity rates in these areas, which would be interesting comparisons to see.


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One response to “Lexington’s food desert

  1. My one complaint on the screen shot of Lexington would be that it is most likely based on 2000 population (and Census blocks) and not the individual blocks themselves. Many individual blocks may be excluded due to no population at all or a higher than normal income so as to over come the cost/transportation problems. There is no doubt that we have “food deserts” and one exists in Lexington, but we need better tools in order to define it.

    If you are correct and we have an oil crisis and it appears that our poor may end up in the suburbs rather than downtown, then our “desert” will ring Lexington instead of being the bulls eye.

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