A GIS-based Methodology Toward Refining the Concept of Rural Food Deserts: A Case Study from Rutland County, Vermont
AbstractThere is generally consensus regarding the methodology used to identify and visualize food deserts in urban centers, and to a lesser extent those in rural communities. The primary factor in food desert mapping, however, is distance to food provider without regard for the nutritional value of the food itself. The purpose of this paper is to offer a broader approach toward refining the food desert concept by incorporating a qualitative ranking of food providers based on the likelihood that they offer healthier food options. We apply this technique to Rutland County in rural Vermont by incorporating traditional grocery stores, supermarkets, big-box stores, general stores, and gas stations, and also including smaller food providers such as farmers' markets, co-ops, farm stands, and community supported agriculture operations. This approach could shift the methodology of identifying food deserts away from just using driving time and distance traveled to food providers meeting a minimum square footage. We propose a methodology that calculates distance to different types of food providers that also evaluates whether consumers have access to healthier food options.
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