A “food desert” is an area where a substantial percentage of residents has low access to a supermarket or large grocery store. Access to appropriate food is, of course, a substantial factor in the health and wellness of populations, and yes, Philadelphia and our surrounding areas does have a few.
Now an interactive map is available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service to help identify food deserts in our communities. You can use the map to search by zip code and identify the census tracts that qualify.
The Food Desert Locator service is just one of a broader set of statistics on food choices, health and well-being, and community characteristics for all communities in the U.S., provided by the USDA’s Food Environment Atlas. While the Food Desert Locator provides information at the census tract level, the Food Environment Atlas works at the level of county. Both services allow users to download data in addition to manipulating the interactive maps.
As a service provided by the U.S.D.A., access to the online tool and the downloadable data is free.