Gilfillan finds herself not in a food desert
, but rather in what some sociologists are now calling a food mirage.
(25,26) The concept of a food desert
is contested regarding rural environments since it is expected that rural dwellers always have access to motorized transport and that they maximize shopping efficiency by making large-volume shopping trips.
Using data from the 2000 Census, as well as store location data as of2006, ERS identified over 6,500 Census tracts that met the definition of a food desert. Store locations were provided by TDLinx, a proprietary database of food retailers in the United States, and by a list from USDA's Food and Nutrition Service of stores authorized to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Benefits--formerly called food stamps.
To qualify as a food desert, a tract has to meet both a low-income standard and a low-access standard.
While a tract must have substantial rates of poverty or low income among its population to qualify as a food desert, the tracts with the highest poverty rates are more likely to suffer from low access than other low-income tracts (Dutko, Ver Ploeg, and Farrigan, 2012).
Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines a food desert as "a low-income census tract where a substantial number or share of residents has low access to a supermarket or large grocery' store." In a city, low-access is defined as more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store; in a rural area it is more than 10.
"Our property actually falls between two food deserts, so while our exact location is not a food desert, The Fresh Grocer will help alleviate some of the lack of fresh produce in the adjoining food deserts," says David Shafer, executive vice president of WNC &" Associates, the Irvine, Calif.-based investor that is helping develop the New Brunswick site in conjunction with developers Penn Rose and Devco.
However, the actual health toll from living in a food desert
environment has not been tabulated in a peer-reviewed study.
Thus, although areas with higher poverty rates may be characterized by lower food access, areas with similar poverty rates but with more effective assistance programs may be less likely to become a food desert (Bonanno, Chenarides, and Goetz, 2012).
In this case, a food desert will emerge if a very limited number of, or no, food stores find it profitable to enter the market, either because of the large fixed cost, or the small expected variable profits, or both.
Also, as these types of food stores may be targeting higher-income consumers and may charge higher prices--perhaps necessary to recover the additional costs sustained--their presence would not help low-income consumers to purchase as much nutritious food as they need, which may result in a food desert. For a more thorough discussion of the concepts in this section please refer to Bitler and Haider (2011) and their references.
This article focuses on socioeconomic characteristics from before and after the food desert designation, identifying persistent differences between food deserts and other areas of the United States, as well as identifying which of these characteristics may be most highly predictive of whether a tract will be designated as a food desert