Are you living in a Food Desert ?

Food deserts are defined as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers markets, and healthy food providers. (USDA)

Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 10.08.08 AMAfter living on Manhattan’s Upper East and West Sides for many years, one of the first things different about Brooklyn was its grocery stores. Blessed by the fact that we live only two blocks away from a fresh food grocery store, I realized how important this was when one had a full household and lived in a walk up building.

Back in 2015, it was announced that a major grocery store (Key Food) on 325 Lafayette Avenue (Intersection of Lafayette & Grand) was closing down due to a new condo building construction. The community was upset and felt betrayed by the change. In most cases the inevitable result of gentrification is change in areas like this. The disappearance of your local stores and introduction of fancy and expensive retail becomes a big concern for the community. In this case, even the developer was quoted saying to reserve the ground floor of the proposed building for a new grocery store.

We home-cook a lot, when I mean a lot, I mean daily. We rely on a nearby grocery store that sells fresh food; vegetable, fruit, fish and meat. Although that Key Food store was not the closest one, it was still a preferred destination for me to get better quality bread and cold cuts which were not always available at our local C-Town store. Bread is definitely an item that makes me miss Manhattan from time to time since we used to live right next to a French bakery for a while.

So the idea of making a map that shows quick access to groceries came years ago during a class that I co-teach at Pratt. One of our former students had done an analysis of locations of grocery stores and created a map with voronoi polygons to show accessibility. She had then made suggestions looking at vacant sites that can be utilized as grocery stores selling fresh food. My map is an update with a more recent database that comes from New York State. It involves filtering the data to Kings County, removing all the non fresh food stores like pharmacies, deli’s, corner bodega stores and discount stores. The remaining store data then analyzes using Network Analysis both in ArcGIS and Carto stores within a 5 and 10 minute walk which is little more than quarter to half mile distance. Honestly speaking with both hands filled with groceries, I would prefer a 5 minute distance (dark overlays) over 10 (light overlays). Here is the map, you can see  areas within 10 or more minutes distance spanning Clinton Hill, Bed-Stuy, Windsor Terrace,  Carroll Gardens, East of Sunset Park, and Canarsie (which compensates with very large stores on waterfront and high rates of car ownership)

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