"Food Access and Food Deserts: Spatial Analyses and Policy Implications" by Daoqin Tong

Daoqin Tong – Associate Professor, School of Geography and Development, University of Arizona

Access to affordable and healthy food has become a societal issue due to the recent Great Recession and heightened levels of unemployment. An estimated 12.7% of American households (15.8 million) were reported food insecure in 2015 according to the latest Economic Research Report by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA 2016). Food access and food deserts have drawn much attention in recent years among scholars, government officials, and practitioners. Many empirical studies have been conducted to examine food access locally, regionally, and nationally. Findings of these studies are, however, dramatically inconsistent.

Our study shows that spatial scale and the level of aggregation could account for a major portion of the varying results. Our spatial analysis results further point out that current food access practices may lead to an overestimation of food access for poor neighborhoods, and as a result  a substantial amount of low-income and minority populations are probably left unserved or under-served by current government funding and assistance programs. Also most food access studies have focused on supermarkets or large grocery stores, and other types of food outlets are often ignored or paid less attention. Our empirical study conducted in the Tucson, Arizona metropolitan area examines the role of independent grocery stores in shaping the foodscape. Locational strategies of the current independent stores are analyzed and compared with the “optimal” spatial configuration for addressing food deserts. The study provides policy implications for government incentive programs to encourage establishment of business in underserved area and locational strategies for non-government organizations and private practices for planning food provision services.

Dr. Daoqin Tong is an Associate Professor in the School of Geography and Development at the University of Arizona. Dr. Tong received her M.S. in Civil Engineering, M.A.S. in Statistics, and Ph.D. in Geography from the Ohio State University. Dr. Tong’s research has mainly focused on the use of spatial analytics including spatial optimization, GIS, spatial statistics and big data to support urban and regional studies concerning locational decisions, urban mobility, food access and public health. Dr. Tong received the Geoffrey J.D. Hewings Award at the 2016 North American Regional Science Council annual meeting for her contributions to regional science research. 

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Tuesday, February 14, 3:00-4:30 pm
Coor Hall, Room 5536