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In many of America's largest cities urban residents do not have supermarkets near their homes. This problem has been well documented in a few of the nation's largest cities. To date, however, there has been no attempt to present a national evaluation of the absence of supermarkets in many urban neighborhoods. This study uses zip code level demographic information from the 1990 Population Census and a complete census of all supermarkets in twenty-one of the nation's largest metropolitan statistical areas. Information on individual supermarkets, including square feet of selling space is classified into individual zip code areas. This allows one to measure the relationship between retail services per capita and demographic variables such as income per capita and percent of households receiving public assistance. Since we have zip codes for each of the twenty-one large metropolitan areas, included in this sample, we also can examine relationships between demographic variables and urban grocery store services on a city by city basis. This exercise reveals startling differences in the size of the urban grocery store gap in different U.S. cities. Some cities have actually solved the distribution problem while others face extremely serious distribution problems. Given the recent cuts at the Federal level in food programs and the clear-cut need to improve the efficiency of distribution of federal food program dollars, the focus on the ability of the supermarket food distribution system to deliver food in an efficient, i.e., reasonably priced fashion, to low-income urban neighborhoods is extremely timely.


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