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Do You Live in a Food Desert?

The folks at Walk Score have been rating the walkability of neighborhoods across the US for a while - providing a numeric rating for how easily residents of a given neighborhood can go about their daily business on foot. 

No Walk Score has taken a look at access to food. They've applied a similar logic to the question of which neighborhoods are in comfortable five-minute walking distance of grocery stores, and which neighborhoods look a little more like a food desert.

Walk Score has so far released only lists of the top and bottom five large cities in terms of access to food, so Tacoma doesn't show up on any maps just yet. The scoring system, and some criticism of it from Next City did get us thinking though, about how various neighborhoods around here would measure up.

The Next City critique points to a number of problems they see with the Walk Score algorithm, not least of which is quality - is your corner quickie-mart really every bit as good as a full-service grocer when it comes to defining food deserts? That's just one question; access to food - and especially to healthy food - is an even bigger question.

(On a related note, PLU is hosting what sounds like an interesting event: a multi-day Food Symposium, beginning today, and continuing into the weekend, addresssing questions of food access, both locally and globally.)

We may not be on the Walk Score food desert rankings, but you know better how your neighborhood rates anyway - do you live in a food desert? What criteria would you apply in judging how good the food access is in a place?


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Comments

JDHasty

Cry me a river.  No one is owed a food store within a five minute walk from their residence. 

If it is a such a grand idea to locate grocery stores in each and every residential neighborhood perhaps the self identified oracles of such knowledge should be liquidating their retirement and selling off their assets for capital to invest in such ventures.  That way they can become fabulously wealthy serving their fellow man   ...or lose everything they own.

The residents who live within a five minute walk will let them know whether they are correct     ...or not.  Talk is cheap.

April 4, 2014 at 9:15 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Xeno

I think you don’t grasp the conversation.  This isn’t about people being owed anything.  It is about understanding key demographics and city planning.  Lower income families without good transit or vehicle access resort to some of the worst nutrition decisions, which invariably take a terrible toll on public health, subsidized lunch programs, ect.  Something I would think you’d be in favor of, since it creates less reliance on the social welfare state.  Providing transit options in those areas and appropriate zoning. get us to understand how we can connect invidivuals to proper food sources and incentivize private development to locate in those areas.  Its just common sense.

April 7, 2014 at 9:00 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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thackerspeedRegistered

There is no scarcity of healthy food in Tacoma. Likewise, no socio-economic class is restricted access to food stores; access may be achieved directly or indirectly both locally and globally.

Should individuals just acquiesce to social machinations proposed by special interest groups? If the implication of Walk Score is that it serves as a useful measure of the vitality of Tacoma, then I reject that standard of measurement.

April 7, 2014 at 10:12 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Xeno

First off Walkscore is a business, not a special interest group.  They serve no special interest other than to make money in connecting their service to real estate.  They did not create the academic literature on “food deserts.”  With that said, the body of literature around “food deserts” is a conversation of sustainability and public health.  It is a useful tool in reexamining our communities and how we shape them.  I think you make bold statements about there being no scarcity and no restriction of socio-economic class.  I simply haven’t seen Tacoma’s data to make such claims.  I do know Fife has no grocery store, while not Tacoma, that affects some of Tacoma’s border neighborhoods to Fife.  We’ve had two grocery stores go out of business in the last year in Tacoma.  It is a conversation worth having.

April 7, 2014 at 10:48 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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thackerspeedRegistered

“I think you make bold statements about there being no scarcity and no restriction of socio-economic class.  I simply haven’t seen Tacoma’s data to make such claims.”

I don’t think I said anything controversial; my statement corresponds to reality.

The general controversy about the topic centers on the idea of progress and standards of measurement.

As far as academic virtue, playing games with words can be misleading, inaccurate, and harmful. Food Deserts, or say, Food Fights—what’s the difference? These terms might create a conversation worth having, but maybe that’s a controversial statement.

April 7, 2014 at 12:09 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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xeno

If you don’t like the verbage that is fine.  Let’s just say it sucks to be far away from food.  And if you’re poor and without a vehicle it sucks even more to transport it back home.  Hopefully we can provide good transit options so we don’t have these problems.  I can’t say I have ridden on every bus route in the city to make a determination to know the reality of whether it is hard or not to get groceries.  But it shouldn’t be controversial to identify those locations, make sure we provide service where it is needed, and make the world suck a little less.

April 7, 2014 at 2:00 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Jenny JRegistered

I’m in favor of making the world suck a little less.

I also think it’s worth considering the impact that difficulty in accessing healthy food options can have on both worker productivity and student success.

April 7, 2014 at 2:16 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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thackerspeedRegistered

“I can’t say I have ridden on every bus route in the city to make a determination to know the reality of whether it is hard or not to get groceries.  But it shouldn’t be controversial to identify those locations, make sure we provide service where it is needed, and make the world suck a little less.”

If there is a correlation between bus riding and scarcity of food, I’d like to hear about it.

As far as Walk Score’s link and contribution to the real estate industry, a sophisticated special interest group, I’d like to know how many property sales can be directly accounted for because of information from Walk Score. I just don’t see any significant relation between credit worthy real estate buyers and the distance of a food store.

Maybe Walk Score should shift their allegiance to the shoe manufacturing consortium.

April 7, 2014 at 5:32 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

Hogwash

April 7, 2014 at 3:38 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Xeno

Hey, don’t blame me for not understanding the issue.

April 8, 2014 at 2:07 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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nwcolorist

Oh no! I live in a food desert. It takes me fifteen minutes to walk to Safeway. Do I qualify for some kind of financial support? ;)

April 4, 2014 at 4:12 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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thackerspeedRegistered

There’s a great new invention that will save the average household hundreds of dollars in shoe expenses. It’s called a refrigerator.

April 6, 2014 at 10:32 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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