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Center for Agroecology

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Mapping the markets: the relative density of retail food stores in densely populated census blocks in the central coast region of California


Research in the United Kingdom and more recently in the United States has found geographic differences in access to affordable, nutritious food. In some cases more limited access has been associated with a higher proportion of residents in ethnic minority groups. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), we explored the potential existence of “food deserts” and their relationship with ethnicity in Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito Counties. Relative to the region as a whole, there were few clusters of census blocks with less access to retail food outlets with fresh produce (grocery stores, supermarkets and fruiterias) after adjusting for population density. In addition, access to these retail food outlets was not associated with the percentage of the population that was Latino. However, we identified some areas that would benefit from further investigation, and that may be suitable locations for locating new fruit and vegetable markets. Such markets may benefit local residents, as well as new, limited-resource, and minority farmers who often have inadequate access to distribution networks for their produce.

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