Food Deserts

Posted on September 15th, 2012 by

Food deserts are areas where affordable, healthy food is scarce. Supermarkets are non-existent in many small towns and low-income inner-city neighborhoods. That leaves residents with few options other than paying high prices in convenience stores. The problem is particularly acute when residents lack access to a car. Urban geographer Adam Pine of UMD has highlighted the problems of food deserts in Duluth in work highlighted in a National Public Radio story.  Adam Pine was an undergraduate student in my Sustainable Cities class at the University of Minnesota back when I taught there. Way to go Adam!



Convenience stores are sometimes the only option for groceries in inner-city neighborhoods or small towns.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.




  1. Nathan says:

    I recently attended a talk by LaDonna Redmond of IATP about urban farming and food justice. Redmond argues that “food desert” is not an appropriate term because a desert is a healthy ecosystem that has sufficient quantity and quality of food for its inhabitants. She has at times used the term “food apartheid” which speaks to the underlying problems of social and racial injustice that lead to unequal access to healthy food. I think that “apartheid” may be too extreme of a word, but I do appreciate that it suggests a cause, whereas “desert” suggests a condition (albeit a technically inaccurate one). Thoughts?

  2. That’s a good point. The term ‘food desert” trades on negative views of deserts. We should all try to come up with a better term that describes places where the food choices are limited to packaged, sugary, overpriced items.