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Food Deserts: Towards the Development of a Classification

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Many people in developed countries fail to consume a healthy diet. This phenomenon has been linked to the contested existence of ‘food deserts’ in the UK, and the occurrence of ‘food insecurity’ in the USA and elsewhere. ‘Food deserts’ remain contested theoretical territory at least partly because no firm definition has been proposed. This paper argues that the barriers to consumption of a healthy diet may be classified according to whether such barriers are financial, physical, or derive from the mental attitude and knowledge of the consumer. The perception of ‘unsupportive food environments’ by some consumers is contrasted with the geographical existence of multiple sources of fresh fruit and vegetables in certain locations. Using a total of 234 semi—structured interviews in various UK locations, qualitative evidence is gathered for the existence of at least ten different types of ‘food desert’. The paper then goes on to show how such a three fold classification may be developed, using a modified ternary diagram, to assess the most appropriate initiatives to tackle ‘food deserts’ and to monitor progress in alleviating their effects.

Keywords: Leeds; Lincolnshire; diet; food deserts; food security; poverty; social exclusion

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Southampton, UK

Publication date: June 1, 2006

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