Food Deserts Are Part Mirage
By George Anderson
February 3, 2012
There’s a perception that many urban communities in the U.S. are devoid of places to buy groceries. According to research, however, the issue isn’t about quantity, it’s about quality.
A new University of Southern California (USC) study found that many poor neighborhoods in cities actually have many grocery options, with large numbers of mom-and-pop food stores. The problem is those businesses, for the most part, do not offer the selection and prices that would benefit locals most.
“Having access to bigger stores could mean a larger range of produce and lower prices,” said Jenny Schuetz, a professor with the USC Price School of Public Policy and the study’s lead author, in a press release.
“Low-income households presumably have the most to gain from lower prices made possible by economies of scale, yet are less likely to benefit from them,” Prof. Schuetz said.
The research, published in Regional Science and Urban Economics, looked at retail services in 58 major metropolitan areas around the U.S.
According to 2009 U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, 11.5 million people with low incomes (roughly 4.1 percent of the country’s total population) live in poorer areas more than a mile from a supermarket.