Food access in Kalamazoo, Michigan

A spatial analysis




Geographic Information Systems, GIS, Public Transit, Food Access, Grocery Stores, Farmers Market, Community Gardens, Convenience Stores, Income Data, American Community Survey (ACS), Food Environment


Healthy and affordable food is a universal human need. In the U.S., food access is often limited in low-income areas as opposed to medium- and high-income areas. To address disparities in the availability of healthy foods, the dispersion of food access points needs to be quantified and docu­mented. Nutritional quality and consistency of availability vary across different types of food access points, including permanent grocery stores, farmers markets, community gardens, food pan­tries, and convenience stores. Accessibility is also determined by the means of transportation avail­able or required to get to food access points (public transit, driving, or walking). In this geographic information systems (GIS)-based analysis, we iden­tify differences in accessibility to distinct types of food access points—reliable, seasonal, and lower quality—between low-income and higher-income tracts in the City of Kalamazoo, Michigan. We found that all full-service grocery stores are acces­sible via bus routes in the City of Kalamazoo; however, 11% of people reside in low-income areas with low access to these grocery stores—beyond the 0.25-mile walkable distance to bus routes. We then asked whether the addition of community gardens, food pantries, and farmers markets, on the “plus” side, or convenience and dollar stores, on the “minus” side, changes the food access landscape in this community. We found that the “positive” access points served areas that already had access to grocers, while “negative” access points filled the access gap in lower income areas. More than twice as many low-income residents had walkable access to convenience stores—which provide lower-quality and highly processed food—with 81% of them being located within low-income tracts. Geographical analysis of low food access and low-quality food access is important to identify structural patterns, but it needs to be paired with interview-based commu­nity assessments to ascertain how residents actually procure their food.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

Natalie E. Call, Kalamazoo College

Undergraduate; Environmental Studies Program

Elizabeth M. Silber, Kalamazoo College

Undergraduate; Environmental Studies Program

E. Binney Girdler, Kalamazoo College

Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies, Kalamazoo College



How to Cite

Call, N., Silber, E., & Girdler, E. B. (2023). Food access in Kalamazoo, Michigan: A spatial analysis. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 12(4), 1–13.