An analysis of food accessibility using the USDA Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey
Health professionals have spent years refining the definition of food deserts—research has been conducted to show how socioeconomic status and a lack of nutritional foods influence a person’s lifestyle. Poor access to a supermarket or healthy foods can cause long-term health effects and an increase in mortality rates. Metrics have been developed to determine areas, known as food deserts, in which households experience difficulty accessing healthy food options. However, these metrics vary widely in their classification of a food desert. Utilizing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey, this study analyzes the travel patterns of 3,286 households in urban areas in the United States and finds that travel time and supermarket frequency of visits are the optimal measures of food accessibility. It was determined that most households do not shop at their nearest store, often shopping at three or more stores in a month. Lack of vehicle ownership reduces the frequency at which individuals go to the supermarket. Lastly, using Baltimore City as a case study, the authors present an alternative definition of a food desert that measures the number of supermarkets accessible within a 10-minute drive and 10-minute walk.
Chavis, Celeste; Davis, Tiffani; Norris, Tiana; and Jones, Anita, "An analysis of food accessibility using the USDA Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey" (2018). Clarence M. Mitchell School of Engineering. 11.