The urbanisation of the US is causing food deserts

Texas effected by food deserts
© iStock/franckreporter

Urbanisation has created food deserts across the United States. Around 20% of residents in Dallas and Tarrant counties live in areas where they have very little access to healthy food.

The University of Texas at Arlington have published a study named “Urban Sprawl and the emergence of food deserts” in which they discuss the definition and the reasoning behind these food deserts.

The US Department of Agriculture has defined a food desert as a low-income area in which a significant number of citizens live in an inaccessible distance from a supermarket, big-box super centre or a healthy food store. This distance is different for those living in rural and urbanised areas, with the distance for urban inhabitants being 1 mile and those living in rural areas are deemed to live in a food desert if they are 10 miles away from a healthy food source.

The author of “Urban sprawl and the emergence of food deserts in the USA”, Shima Hamidi, director of UTA’s Centre for Transportation Equity, stated: “We believe the analysis is one of the first national attempts to account for urban sprawl and other built-environment and socioeconomic characteristics of a neighbourhood,”

Hamidi said. “This study found that, in addition to socioeconomic characteristics, urban sprawl at both neighbourhood and regional levels increases the likelihood of a neighbourhood becoming or having a food desert…More compact neighbourhoods are likely to support a greater number of grocery stores and have healthy food stores in close proximity.”

The University of Texas at Arlington’s (UTA) vice president for research commends Hamidi’s study. Dimos believes that there is a strong reflection of her study in the UTA’s plan for Sustainable Urban Communities. Dimos said:”Urban sprawl is not unique to Dallas–it exists throughout the nation…Many U.S. metropolitan areas suffer from the maladies associated with it. We have an opportunity through Dr. Hamidi’s research to combat urban sprawl with techniques that translate to many, many metropolitan areas. Being smarter and thinking outside the box will serve us well in building and rebuilding America’s urban areas.”

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