It Doesn’t Matter How Close The Supermarket Is If It’s Closed When You Get Home

Image courtesy of army.arch *Adam*

We often hear about food deserts, or areas where people have limited access to stores that sell nutritious food. However, there’s more to it than simply looking at a map and checking how close to the nearest grocery store someone lives. There’s also the important question of what that store’s hours are. How easy is it for residents to get there, and how easy is it for residents with irregular schedules, multiple jobs, or limited transportation options?

Money is one scarce resource for people who live in food deserts, but so is time. One woman who lives in a Detroit food desert with a toddler and without a car explained to Civil Eats. Theoretically, she could travel to supermarkets in nicer neighborhoods, but that would mean navigating the bus system to get there and back, eating up a large part of her day. “If you had asked me this question two years ago, I would have said it was no big deal,” she said, “but now I have a 1-year-old and having to jump through multiple hoops just to buy quinoa matters to me.”

Experts once thought that simply making better food options available in low-income neighborhoods would help people to make healthier food choices, but if those shining new supermarkets are closed when they have time to shop, the researchers found, people are likely to turn to fast food or the poor quality food available in dollar and convenience stores.

When it Comes to Food Access, are Grocery Store Hours as Important as Location? [Civil Eats]

Food Environment Atlas [USDA] (Find out if you live in a geographic food desert)