Access to Affordable and Nutritious Food: Understanding Food Deserts

Increases in obesity and chronic diseases associated with poor diets have led to questions about whether some low-income and rural communities lack access to affordable and nutritious foods.

Concerned that some areas have become food deserts, Congress included in the 2008 Farm Bill a request that the U.S. Department of Agriculture conduct a study of these areas. That work began Oct. 9, 2008, with a workshop that brought together key stakeholders from program, policy, research and advocacy communities.  Participants discussed how to conceptualize and measure food deserts, implications of food deserts for public health and food assistance programs, and programs and policies to help mitigate the impact of food deserts.

This 2008 workshop was organized by USDA Economic Research Service in collaboration with Farm Foundation. Presentations from the workshop are posted below

Session I:  Defining and Conceptualizing Areas of Low Access to Affordable and Nutritious Food
 Lois Morton, Iowa State University
Diego Rose, Tulane University
Joel Gittelsohn, Johns Hopkins University

Session 2:  Implications of Low Access for Food and Nutrition Assistance Programs
 Carol Olander, USDA Food and Nutrition Service
Anne Bartholomew, USDA Food and Nutrition Service
Joel Berg, New York City Coalition Against Hunger
Lorette Picciano, Rural Coalition

Food Deserts, Diet and Health Outcomes
 Judith Wylie-Rosett, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the American Heart Association

Session 3:  Community Efforts to Reduce the Impact of Areas of Low Access
Chair: Elizabeth Tuckermanty, USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service
Joel Gittelsohn, Johns Hopkins University
LaDonna Redmond, Institute for Community Resource Development, Chicago, Ill.
Pamela Roy, Farm to Table and the New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council
Ken Meter, Crossroads Resource Center, Minneapolis, Minn.

Session 4:  Roundtable Discussion of Program and Policy Options
Kami Pothukuchi, Wayne State University
John Weidman, The Food Trust
Andy Fisher, Community Food Security Coalition


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