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Mastura Safayet - 2020 Fall Graduate
Disparities in access to healthy food are a key public health concern in the United States (U.S.). Food access is considered as a critical element of food insecurity. Food insecurity can often be prevalent in a region due to a lack of healthy food outlets as well as inequitable access to healthy food outlets. A large body of literature pertaining to access to healthy food has reported that conventional food outlets such as supermarkets and large grocery stores may not be equitably distributed across different neighborhoods in a region. There has been limited research on local food access patterns. Despite the few studies focused on access to individual types of local food outlets, such as farmers markets, little is known about whether such access varies among different types of local food outlets and how such access patterns compare with the uneven access to conventional food outlets. This study uses Maricopa County, one of the largest counties in Arizona, as a case study to examine the spatial patterns of access to conventional food markets (i.e. supermarkets or large grocery stores) and four different types of local food outlets, including farmers market, community garden, community-supported agriculture (CSA) and mobile food markets. By analyzing the association between healthy food access and neighborhood characteristics, the study suggests that the local food system has a great potential in providing healthy food access to low-income and minority populations of the County than conventional food outlets. The study provides important insights into the way different types of local food outlets offer their availability in space and whether they are more equitable in serving underserved neighborhoods. The findings from this study can assist both government agencies and city planner formulate strategies to improve access to healthy food in disadvantaged neighborhoods.