Feeding America's Heartland

By: Kathlee Freeman  

Despite the extraordinary agricultural production and personal wealth found in the United States, families throughout the country still struggle with limited access to affordable and nutritious foods. While government supported assistance programs, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) are an essential component in the fight against food insecurity, millions of Americans continue to rely on food pantries as an important weapon in the front line battle against hunger. The ability of pantries to meet the needs of low-income populations, however, is often limited due to geographical proximity, hours, and amount of food distributed. While there is a wide and rich literature covering the topic of “food deserts”, defined by the USDA as an area in which access to grocery stores is limited due to income and geographic proximity, the spatial relationship between food pantries and surrounding communities is not as well understood. Using the USDA’s geographic requirements for food deserts, ESRI's ArcGIS was used to map food pantry locations over demographic data used to describe vulnerable populations. Results indicate most pantry locations are clustered around urban centers. Even in rural counties, locations tended to fall within urban places, suggesting low-income, rural populations face numerous barriers to accessing emergency and supplemental food services.

Food Pantries, Emergency Food Services, Geospatial, Mapping, Food Insecurity
Food, Politics, and Cultures
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Kathlee Freeman

Researcher/Communications Consultant, Operation Food Search/CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, United States
United States

I am a policy researcher and communications consultant with a background in mixed-methods research, including GIS. I've worked in the U.S. and East Africa on issues of food insecurity.