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Food Deserts, Food Sovereignty, and Urban Food Security Daniel Block Chicago State University Department of Geography Neighborhood Assistance Center Phone:

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Presentation on theme: "Food Deserts, Food Sovereignty, and Urban Food Security Daniel Block Chicago State University Department of Geography Neighborhood Assistance Center Phone:"— Presentation transcript:

1 Food Deserts, Food Sovereignty, and Urban Food Security Daniel Block Chicago State University Department of Geography Neighborhood Assistance Center Phone: (773)995-2310 E-mail: dblock@csu.edu University of Chicago Teacher Institute June 27, 2012 1

2 GSC Nov. 1, 2011 2 Food Deserts? The concept of a “Food Desert”, an area with low access to quality groceries, has captured the public interest in many cities, but what is it?  Originally used by a resident of a public sector housing project in the west of Scotland in the early 1990s (Cummins, 1990).  General Definition: Urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food.  Large geographic area that has no or distant mainstream grocery stores (Gallagher, 2006)

3 2010….The Healthy Food Financing Initiative Feb. 19, 2010: President Obama announces the Fresh Food Financing Program---with a goal of eliminating food deserts. More than $400 million Including: – New Market Tax Credit and support to Community Development Financial Institutions for new supermarket projects – Loans and grants from USDA for programs enhancing access through connections to local producers. 3 University of Chicago Teacher Institute June 27, 2012

4 2011…Emmanuel— Chicago—Food Desert focus Food Access one of 28 community focus areas of new Mayor Emmanuel’s transition plan Called the plan “a scorecard for the first 100 days of the administration”…pledged to: – Organize a summit – Seek out new partners and distribution channels – Work for zoning changes to promote urban agriculture and aquaponics – Create a plan for eliminating worst food deserts on predominately African-American South and West sides 4 University of Chicago Teacher Institute June 27, 2012

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6 Why Food Deserts? Political Reasons An index can be created, so change (or improvement) can be easily measured (think scorecard) and the solution (a new store) can be easily seen Opening a new store generally involves government promotion of a community development project through private companies. Other solutions (gardens, etc.) might involve partnerships with community organizations---good politically Index can be used by neighborhood organizations for soliciting funding Story can play really well 6 NYU March 7, 2012

7 Telling the Story…. ‘‘Why is it that in some communities consumers can buy French fries but not fresh potatoes?’’ US Rep. Bobby Rush (IL), 2008 7 NYU March 7, 2012

8 “A black baby in Chicago…is 2 1/2 times more likely than the national average to die in the first year…One reason so many babies in Chicago die? The mothers are more likely to be sick. (Wine-and-cheese bar on the left). And one reason that the mothers are sick? They don’t have access to fresh food. (Probitoics on the right; bakery and sushi up ahead)...No city will ever offer equality of everything to everybody. But we live in a city where multitudes pay $7.99 a pound at the Whole Foods salad bar. It’s time to help the other multitudes find a decent apple” (Schmich, Chicago Tribune, May 22, 2009, p.6). University of Chicago Teacher Institute June 27, 2012 8

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10 What do food deserts communicate? More than just distance to the nearest store. Both press and consumer statements tend to tie food deserts to general inequality, particularly along racial lines. The idea of communities without adequate food access communicates difficulties in daily living that could specifically affect health. Many people experience and understand differences by race and class partially by looking at the retail landscapes of their communities. NYU March 7, 2012 10

11 Issues with Measuring Food Deserts What kinds of stores count? What data do you use? What do you do about population density? What analysis techniques do you use? – Container techniques – Distance to nearest store – More sophisticated techniques such as spatial clustering models Problem: often an official push to use one index 11 University of Chicago Teacher Institute June 27, 2012

12 Definitions in practice vary greatly… ► Gallagher, 2006: at least 33 percent of the tract's population or a minimum of 500 people in the tract must have low access to a supermarket or large grocery store. ► Block, 2008 (also used by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning). Clusters of census tracts that had a greater than expected distance to the nearest chain or independent supermarket given their population density and a median household income below the region median, $52,170. ► USDA/food desert map: Urban: tract greater than 1 mile to the nearest supermarket (usually chain) and having a median household income less than 80% of the regional median. Rural: Greater than 5 miles to the nearest supermarket. ► And many more… University of Chicago Teacher Institute June 27, 2012 12

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15 15 Shopping Behavior is Complex…an Example from Chicago’s West Side Female African-American, Austin, 2004: “Every week I normally shop at Tony's….I look in the sale paper, and sometimes more than once a week because if I see a sale I go in a store just to pick up those items, but I shop at Tony's, Dominick's, Jewel.... Billy's sometimes 'cause I go get some vegetables sometimes…oh, and Leamington's sometime.”

16 University of Chicago Teacher Institute June 27, 2012 16 The Northeast Illinois Community Food Security Assessment A base-line study of access to food in the six-county Chicago metropolitan area A community based participatory research project, community partners in all case study areas Assessment included the collection of data at 4 levels – GIS Data on food access sites (supermarkets, fast food restaurants, food pantries, farmers’ markets)—these point maps define the regional “foodscape” (CSU) – Market Basket studies in six communities-helps deepen our understanding of the “foodscape” (UIC) – Focus groups with consumers, retailers, service providers in the same communities (UIC) – Door-to-door food security surveys in three communities (CSU) --

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20 University of Chicago Teacher Institute June 27, 2012 20 Analysis Utilized University of Chicago Neighborhood Type Classification— classified all census tracts in the Chicago metropolitan area into ten types by ethnicity, population density, family mix, income Population standardized means calculated by neighborhood type. Matrix created of mean distance to store for all store types and neighborhood types. A second matrix of an index which took population density out as a factor.

21 University of Chicago Teacher Institute June 27, 2012 21 Results Impoverished African-American neighborhoods are further than predicted from all store types except chain discount. Predominately Hispanic communities are closer than predicted to independent stores, but further than predicted to chain full-service stores Wealthy urban communities are closer than predicted to all store types but discount. Issue (for policy makers): not a single index.

22 University of Chicago Teacher Institute June 27, 2012 22 Qualitative Results: Race and Food Access Female African-American Consumer: “In the predominately white neighborhood, I have went to the produce, seen unusual vegetables and fruits…near (them)… they would have little pamphlets, explaining, talking about the nutrition of fruit, where it comes from, what it’s supposed to taste like, and how it should be used. But I’ve never seen that in my neighborhood.” (Austin consumer, 2004)

23 University of Chicago Teacher Institute June 27, 2012 23 Female Voice: We just don't get proper food. They give us the bottom of everything. Male Voice: It's like that because, as I said before, the stores in the Black community get worse food than the White community… Male Voice: They care about what they give them at those stores in the suburbs, but here they don't care. They think, "Oh, well. Give them whatever and they'll take it." Female Voice: Yeah, that's it. "Give them whatever." They get greedy (Englewood, Community Member Group Interview, 2006).

24 Current Outcomes of Emmanuel’s Initiatives Walgreen’s announces the opening of “expanded food section” in 19 stores, in addition to 10 already completed, also purchase from local farmers (through Growing Power). Also, 9 new Save-A-Lot stores, 1 new Aldi, 2 Wal-Marts, and 2 new Mariano’s (an upscale full-service chain—1 as of yet unannounced “food desert” location) Also urban agriculture zoning act passed (urban ag. Is now a legal land use) 24 University of Chicago Teacher Institute June 27, 2012

25 But… Expanded Walgreen’s are not meant to be Full Service Supermarkets…or discount supermarkets Save-A-Lot stores, also opening in many “food desert” locations, are not full service…and in areas where discount chains (Aldi’s) are already present Mariano’s are upscale stores …it remains unclear where the “food desert Mariano’s” will open. Only one new Wal-Mart is in a “food desert” 25 University of Chicago Teacher Institute June 27, 2012

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27 Mapping and Oversimplification Maps often reveal inequality but the stories they tell can be somewhat simplistic The policy goal should not generally be just to “fill in the holes” on the map The solutions need to include more general community development goals, oriented around, but not only including, food projects. 27 University of Chicago Teacher Institute June 27, 2012

28 Race, Food Sovereignty, and Food Justice The idea of “sovereignty”-control over local land use and food policy, resonates with control of local land resources, land use planning, and food access issues in US urban areas Food access patterns and responses highlight connections between race, class, and the global food system that lead to patterns of inequality Food justice demands we respect cultural and economic needs, including access to a variety of alternative and mainstream food sources 28 University of Chicago Teacher Institute June 27, 2012

29 Food, Racism and Power Imbalances “food and agriculture lends itself to addressing [racism and power imbalances] because food is so central to communities and, if you had working communities, you’d have justice and equality…. Food security cannot be divorced from the issues of concern to communities.” Daniel, Executive Director of Nuestras Raices, Holyoke, MA. Quoted in Slocum, Rachel, (2008). Anti-Racist Practice and the Work of Community Food Organizations” Antipode 38: 327-349. 29 University of Chicago Teacher Institute June 27, 2012

30 Community Food Projects in Chicago University of Chicago Teacher Institute June 27, 2012 30

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32 University of Chicago Teacher Institute June 27, 2012 32 Acknowledgements Thanks to the Searle Funds of the Chicago Community Trust, Communities Putting Prevention to Work, and the Public Health Institute of Chicago for allowing us to do this work! Thank you to my co-PI’s at the University of Illinois at Chicago and CSU: Noel Chávez, Angela Odoms-Young, Shannon Zenk, and Judy Birgen. Thank you to my many student workers, including John Bisegerwa, Kristin Bowen, Brent Lowe, John Owens, and Noah Sager.


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