Flow of Food and People across the City: An Examination of Local Food Access in a New Orleans Food Desert

By Yuki Kato and Cate Irvin.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Building on the increasing body of scholarship on the complexities of the widely used “food desert” concept, this case study of an urban community-supported agriculture (CSA) organization in New Orleans challenges the static and geographically bound nature of the concept’s definitions and applications. We used ArcGIS to map the addresses of the customers who purchase locally grown produce from the organization through its three distinct food distribution services: on-site markets, off-site pickup locations, and home deliveries. Our analysis of the spatial distribution and concentration of these addresses across the city, overlaid onto a map of the median household income at the census tract level, reveals that the predominantly white, middle-class customers come from all over the city, while hardly any customers come from low-income, predominantly African American census tracts. We also find some interesting differences across the three purchase options, based on which we argue that the food desert must be understood in terms of the spatial, temporal, and social dynamics of food access, rather than where people live in relation to the food outlets.

Keywords: Food Desert, Urban Agriculture, Alternative Food Movements, Food Justice Movements, Qualitative GIS

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp.45-56. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.219MB).

Yuki Kato

Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA, USA

My primary research interest is in the relationship between built environments and individuals/groups with a particular focus on social inequality. My ongoing project in Baltimore, MD, investigates how the urban residents define neighborhood boundaries, based on ethnographic observations and interviews. The project aims to contextualize the definition of "neighborhood," as the term is used too often without critical examination of who, what, or where is part of a neighborhood. My new project is a study of urban farming and neighborhood recovery in New Orleans. The project explores the role of the emerging popularity of urban farming in the city in the Post-Katrina (re)building efforts.

Cate Irvin

Ph.D. student, City, Culture and Community (Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program), Tulane University, USA

Cate Irvin is a doctoral student in Tulane University’s City, Culture, and Community department, in the Sociology track. She received a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Emmanuel College and a master’s in public health from Tulane University, with a focus in international health and development. Before attending Tulane University she gained experience working as a family planning and HIV counselor in Western Massachusetts, as well as Nairobi, Kenya. During her time at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropic Medicine, she cultivated a research interest in lifestyle movements, specifically urban agriculture, studying the impacts of these movements on youth groups in the Viwandani settlement in Nairobi, Kenya. She continues to pursue this interest in her doctoral work in the City, Culture, and Community department, under the instruction of Professor Yuki Kato.