Updated Web Tool Maps U.S. Food Access in Greater Detail

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on July 1, 2013

“Access to stores that carry healthy, affordable food can play an important role in people’s nutrition and overall health. Ensuring access to healthy food is a priority for USDA and a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move!  initiative. Two years ago, USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) first released the Food Desert Locator, an online mapping tool that used the 2000 Census and other data sets to identify low-income census tracts in which a substantial number or share of residents face challenges in accessing the nearest supermarket or large grocery store. My ERS colleagues and I have now updated and expanded the tool and renamed it the Food Access Research Atlas. The new name better reflects what this tool shows us. Now, the Food Access Research Atlas has updated estimates of food desert census tracts using 2010 census data, and offers several additional distance measures to visualize access to supermarkets. For example, in the original measure, a household was considered to be facing an access challenge if it was more than 1 mile from a supermarket in urban areas of the country or more than 10 miles from a supermarket in rural areas. With the updated Atlas, users can also map low-income and low-access areas using distances of one-half mile and 20 miles.”

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