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The goal of Cityscape is to bring high-quality original research on housing and community development issues to scholars, government officials, and practitioners. Cityscape is open to all relevant disciplines, including architecture, consumer research, demography, economics, engineering, ethnography, finance, geography, law, planning, political science, public policy, regional science, sociology, statistics, and urban studies.

Cityscape is published three times a year by the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

  • Urban Problems and Spatial Methods
  • Volume 17, Number 1
  • Managing Editor: Mark D. Shroder
  • Associate Editor: Michelle P. Matuga

Rethinking Food Deserts Using Mixed-Methods GIS

Jerry Shannon
University of Georgia


Food deserts—low-income neighborhoods with poor access to affordable, healthy food—have increasingly been seen as a driver of obesity and related health conditions in urban neighborhoods. Most current research uses an approach based on a Geographic Information System, or GIS, to identify food deserts using store locations, but data that link food environments to health outcomes have been inconsistent. This article outlines an alternative methodology that shifts from the proximity of healthy food stores to the food-provisioning practices of neighborhood residents. Using a mixed-methods approach, this research relies on several data sources: (1) geographic tracking on daily mobility created using Global Positioning System, or GPS, software on a smartphone, (2) georeferenced photographs also created using smartphones, (3) food-shopping diaries and store receipts, and (4) semistructured qualitative interviews. The resulting analysis identified how factors ranging from perceived neighborhood disorder to available transit options shape decisions about how and where to get food. By more explicitly focusing on the food-provisioning strategies of low-income households and the factors that shape them, this research suggests potential pathways toward healthier, more livable cities.

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