New Tool Improves the Search for Food Deserts

The USDA's new Food Access Research Atlas provides a handy guide for assisting policymakers and planners in finding the urban and rural areas with the most formidable obstacles to accessing fresh healthy food, reports Nancy Shute.
March 14, 2013, 12pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"The atlas, which is a big upgrade from the USDA's 2-year-old Food Desert Locator, is intended as a tool for state policymakers, local planners and nonprofit groups concerned about food access," says Shute.

"'People can get a more detailed picture of exactly what challenges they encounter in getting to the grocery store,' says Paula Dutko, an economist for the USDA Economic Research Service who helped craft the atlas."

"Food deserts have been a hot target of healthy-eating efforts, including Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign," adds Shute. "But as programs zero in on improving access, they're finding that bringing in farmers markets and grocery stores doesn't necessarily mean that people start eating better."

"So as our colleague Dan Charles has reported, efforts are now also working on lowering costs, consumer education and marketing."

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Published on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 in NPR
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