Use of GIS Spatial Analysis to Identify Food Deserts in the State of AlabamaJournal: Athens Journal of Health (Vol.1, No. 2)
Publication Date: 2014-06-01
Authors : Virginia P. Sisiopiku; Natalia Barbour;
Page : 91-104
Keywords : ;
Availability and accessibility to fresh foods plays an essential role in public health and individual wellbeing. Unfortunately, a significant amount of the US population today has limited access to supermarkets, farmers markets or other sources of healthy, nutritious and affordable whole food diet options. This phenomenon is known as “food deserts”. Current literature suggests that there is a link between food deserts and high obesity and poverty rates. Identifying the exact location of food deserts, and analyzing contributing factors and social demographics can help to minimize the negative social effects of food deserts. This study investigated the extent of the food desert problem in Alabama and its potential repercussions on the health and wellbeing of Alabamians. Data were obtained from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and analyzed using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analysis tools. A base GIS map layer for county level analysis was obtained from census.gov. The base layer was joined with pertinent data and maps were created in ArcGIS software to display graphically the intensity of select variables. Moran’s statistics were implemented to determine hot and cold spots and statistical significance. The analysis results identified counties in the state of Alabama with the greater need for accessibility to fresh foods. The study findings are very useful for urban planning purposes and for prioritizing efforts to minimize the negative social effects of food deserts in the future. Implementation of initiatives that educate local residents about the importance of making healthy food choices, location of stores providing fresh foods in areas of need, and improvement of local residents’ accessibility to such establishments should be considered as a priority.
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