Pressures of the globalized food system have left communities and individuals in precarious situations in which nutritious and accessible food is not a given; research has begun to suggest that relocalization efforts will not necessarily alleviate these trends without directed efforts to produce exchanges that enhance both food and farm security. Existing research in the area of food deserts and Community Food Security lacks significant empirical, spatially relevant support for developing a sound understanding on the variation of effectiveness of federal food assistance programs in relation to local food systems. This research begins to fill this void by first establishing the traditionally conceived food desert estimation for Washington State using grocery store location and census demographic data, followed by an expansion using farmers’ markets. As food deserts are results of an interaction of concentrated poverty and low accessibility to healthful food sources, this report creates two metrics for food desert determination. For urban areas, good access is considered to be within a one kilometer walking distance. Meanwhile, the rural areas are assessed for the presence of food deserts based on a ten mile (16.1km) network distance needed to be travelled. Both the urban and rural considerations are conducted at the census tract level in which those tracts with poverty levels in excess of 20 percent and in excess of the distances identified are food deserts.
This report first establishes the presence of food deserts, then provides an assessment of the variation in redemption rates and utilization of food assistance programs (e.g., Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP], Women, Infants, and Children [WIC], Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program [Senior FMNP]). SNAP data is obtained from a reduced sample of the 20 pilot markets located in Washington, while complete WIC and Senior FMNP data have been obtained for 2009 and 2010 from all approved farmers’ markets. (author abstract in working paper)
This article is based on a working paper published by the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin.