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Abstract

The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct a 1-year study to assess the extent of areas with limited access to affordable and nutritious food, identify characteristics and causes of such areas, consider how limited access affects local populations, and outline recommendations to address the problem. This report presents the fi ndings of the study, which include results from two conferences of national and international authorities on food deserts and a set of commissioned research studies done in cooperation with the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan. It also includes reviews of existing literature, a national-level assessment of access to supermarkets and large grocery stores, analysis of the economic and public health effects of limited access, and a discussion of existing policy interventions. The study uses a variety of analytical methods and data to assess the extent of limited access to affordable and nutritious food and characteristics of areas with limited access. Overall, findings show that a small percentage of consumers are constrained in their ability to access affordable nutritious food because they live far from a supermarket or large grocery store and do not have easy access to transportation. Urban core areas with limited food access are characterized by higher levels of racial segregation and greater income inequality. In small-town and rural areas with limited food access, the lack of transportation infrastructure is the most defining characteristic. Existing data and research are insufficient to conclusively determine whether areas with limited access have inadequate access.

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