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Grocery Store Access

Variable Definitions:

Low Access Population: The percentage of individuals who do not live within 1/2 mile of a grocery store

Low Income & Low Access Population: The percentage of low income individuals who do not live within 1/2 mile of a grocery store 

Low Access Youth: The percentage of youth under the age of 18 who do not live within 1/2 mile of a grocery store 

Low Access Older Adults: The percentage of adults ages 65 and older who do not live within 1/2 mile of a grocery store 

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Access Research Atlas

Years Available:
2015, 2019

Why are these variables important to measure?

Grocery Store Access

An area is considered a “food desert” when 33% of a census tract (or at least 500 residents in that tract) do not live within one mile of a large grocery store or supermarket. This circumstance can mean residents lack access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foodstuffs. With few alternatives, residents in food deserts often rely on smaller food marts and fast-food chains which frequently offer only processed foods high in fat and sugar that contribute to high obesity rates and poor overall health. 
Food deserts are often located in low-income communities where “food insecurity” is also a common factor. Food insecurity is generally defined as a lack of means to secure the necessary quality or quantity of food within a household. Nationally, food insecurity affects 13% of U.S. households. Like those in food deserts, those suffering from food insecurity may encounter obstacles to purchasing nutrients like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and foods high in fiber at some point during the year. Often these individuals come from vulnerable populations including seniors and children. 
The growing Food Justice Movement seeks to guarantee healthy and affordable food to everyone by addressing disparate food access especially in low-income and communities of color. In Los Angeles County organizations like The Los Angeles Food Policy CouncilFood Finders, and Hollywood Food Coalition work to address these disparities. 


Ver Ploeg, Michele, David Nulph, and Ryan Williams. “Mapping Food Deserts in the United States.” USDA Economic Research Service, 1 December 2011. Link.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.  Food Insecurity in Los Angeles County Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic, November 2021. link

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