Food Deserts in Context: A Look at South Carolina and Charleston

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Conwell, Elizabeth
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For the history of its study, the concept of “food deserts” has been a difficult one to pinpoint. Various definitional challenges suggest a variety of potential ways to study food (in)accessibility in a spatial context. Because this research aims to lay a foundation in the study of food deserts in South Carolina and the Charleston area, the focus of this paper will use statistical analysis to present a preliminary look at where food deserts are located using data from the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Access Research Atlas. Are there any patterns as to where these areas of low access occur? Next, this paper will examine the demographic features of these areas, pairing the 2000 US Census demographic data to the accessibility data. Can we detect any trends in terms of the defining characteristics of these affected communities? Are there “indicators” of potentially low access? Finally, after calculating results for the various levels of analysis, a comparison between local, state, and national conditions of food accessibility will be discussed. How does South Carolina compare to national trends? How does Charleston stack up to other counties in the state? The answers to these questions represent a first step in better understanding food access in South Carolina and the Charleston area. Findings show that South Carolina and Charleston are consistent with national trends as well as previous localized studies.
food deserts, food security, food access, geography, politics of space