Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Find a food desert near you

Want to know where you can't buy fresh, healthful food? The USDA has the map for you.

The feds' new Food Access Research Atlas lets you find out just where it's difficult to buy broccoli or bananas in counties across the U.S. The atlas, which is a big upgrade from the USDA's two-year-old Food Desert Locator, is intended as a tool for state policymakers, local planners, and nonprofit groups concerned about food access.

"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.

Dutko and her crew added in data on whether households have vehicles, because that can make a huge difference in grocery shopping. And they added more choices for distance from a store, including 20 miles for rural areas, instead of just 10.

Access by bus or train isn't on the map, Dutko says, because there isn't national data.

By Nancy Shute at

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