The Food Desert Predictor
Geographic areas in the United States where residents have restricted or nonexistent access to affordable, healthy food options are known as “food deserts”. The USDA Food Access Research Atlas provides a visualization of food deserts in the United States currently and in the past (dating back to 2011). Our tool, the Food Desert Predictor, seeks to build upon this tool by providing a prospective look at food deserts, identifying areas that are likely to be food deserts in the near future.
By understanding which areas are at risk in advance of actually becoming a food desert, we believe this tool can be useful to a wide range of stakeholders. For starters, policymakers that represent areas at risk of becoming food deserts could design specific policy interventions to either prevent the food desert from emerging or minimize the impacts of food insecurity by understanding the most influential contributing factors. Similarly, affected populations and community groups can use the tool to lobby and influence policymakers in a quantitative, objective way. Meanwhile, non-profits such as food banks can use the tool to inform their operations, allowing them to better prepare to serve new geographic areas and populations.