A new study from researchers at the University of Chicago shows that despite an increase of supermarkets across Chicago, low-income neighborhoods have not reaped the benefits.
The study published in the July issue of the journal Health & Place contributes to a growing body of research on food deserts—economically disadvantaged areas where access to healthy food is limited and can affect the health of residents.
The study conducted by researchers at UChicago’s Center for Spatial Data Science, along with colleagues at Northwestern and Chicago State universities, investigated changes in supermarket access in Chicago between 2007 and 2014, a period spanning the Great Recession.
Marynia Kolak, assistant director for Health Informatics at the Center for Spatial Data Science, and Julia Koschinsky, the Center’s executive director, along with their colleagues calculated the average distance to the nearest supermarkets throughout Chicago across census tracts in 2007, 2011 and 2014, and identified areas with low access, high access or changing access over time.
The researchers found that among African-American and socioeconomically disadvantaged residents of Chicago, access to healthy food was persistently poor and worsened in some areas following the economic shocks. However, these findings came even as the total number of supermarkets in Chicago increased over the time range observed.