Geography of urban food access : exploring potential causes of food deserts

Caitlin Cameron (MCP '12) came to the conclusion that we believe we understand food deserts, but we do not. In the last decade the phenomenon of food deserts has been often discussed, and many solutions are proposed to alleviate food access issues in American cities. However, I argue that the efficacy of these solutions is questionable until the causes of urban food deserts are better understood. Beyond the economics of retail grocery exist systemic, physical factors which contribute to the gaps in food access. Although grocery retailers have different models and consider varying factors when choosing where to locate, it is true that the built environment plays a part in whether a city is hospitable or hostile to grocery stores, especially of the types that sell healthy, fresh food.