D.C.'s Grocery Store Scarcity Revisited - NBC4 Washington

D.C.'s Grocery Store Scarcity Revisited

Checking What's Going on in "Food Deserts"



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    In early 2009, demographer Lynda Laughlinmade the case that grocery stores are "few and far between" in many parts of D.C. Her research found that in Wards 2 and 3, there was approximately one store for every 8,911 residents, but in Wards 7 and 8 there was one store for every 45,000 residents, a strong argument that lower income neighborhoods were experiencing a grocery store scarcity.

    Greater Greater Washington had a post recently that revisited this issue, but largely to clear up some misconceptions that had come to light in a recent report by D.C. Hunger Solutions and Social Compact called When Healthy Food is Out of Reach. The report provided a map of the city that highlighted areas that would be considered "food deserts" or places that had limited access to "affordable and nutritional food." What Greater Greater Washington discovered was that the map was misleading because it marked areas that were uninhabited or for some other reason do not require access to food:

    "Entire block groups were designated as food deserts that either have no living residents (such as cemeteries and parks) and so do not have much income and require no access to food, or house institutions (like hospitals) and so do not have much income but likely provide food on site. Nearly 1/4 of the areas designated as food deserts may technically, but not realistically, fit the working definition."

    An annotated map can be viewed here. While the "cartographic fallabilty" is important to note, it does not change the issue that communities with large populations in poverty or large minority populations have poor access to grocery stores.

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