Should the Definition of Food Deserts Incorporate a Seasonal Component?
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Darrouzet-Nardi, Amelia F.
Boehm, Rebecca L.
Stabley, Sophia E.
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Households may experience geographic, transportation, and other spatial barriers to healthy eating when there is a dearth of fresh foods nearby to where they live. Communities with a low supply of healthy foods nearby are typically referred to as food deserts, and are formally defined as areas with at least 33 percent of the population residing more than one mile away from a supermarket or grocery store. This definition emphasizes the spatial aspects of the food access challenge without addressing potential seasonal aspects, and there are many potential seasonal factors which influence food access, especially for low-resource households. During winter, it may be especially difficult to access healthy foods because days are shorter, it gets dark earlier, sidewalks may not be clear of snow for walking, public transit service may be more intermittent, inclement weather might make it harder to walk places, certain fruits and vegetables are highly seasonal, delivery trucks may be delayed more frequently, and farmers markets aren’t operating as intensively. Understanding the seasonal barriers to healthy eating is important for informing nutrition policies and programs, especially initiatives focused on eliminating food deserts.