Examine the Feasibility of Using GIS Data to Catalog a Representative Sample of Food Deserts and Characteristics of the SNAP Households Residing There
This study demonstrates the practicality of using geographic information system (GIS) tools to catalog Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households residing in areas with limited access to healthy foods (food deserts) and ultimately to describe the characteristics of these households. The goal was to enable FNS to identify food deserts as they relate to SNAP households and better understand SNAP households’ ability to access SNAP certified retailers. Such access often is compromised in low-income areas where corner stores, convenience stores, and fast-food restaurants may outnumber or take the place of supermarkets and other food retailers that offer a variety of healthy foods. This study recommends a plan for implementing a pilot study of this food desert catalog (in one or two metropolitan areas) and provides recommendations for expanding the pilot study to include a representative number of states throughout the United States. Data included environmental scans of relevant data sources and GIS and other tools to identify available mechanisms for geocoding, distance calculations, and data linkage. The project evaluated their respective advantages and limitations both as independent tools and in combination with other tools or data sources.