Understanding Accessibility to Snap-Accepting Food Store Locations: Disentangling the Roles of Transportation and Socioeconomic Status
Brittany Wood and Mark Horner
Many studies have suggested that spatial inaccessibility to food stores may have a negative impact on the health status of individuals residing in low-income and racial minority neighborhoods. Research has focused on defining these areas as ‘food deserts’ where a variety of methods are used to quantify and map the lack of access to healthy foods. Nevertheless, the ability to afford and purchase healthy food must also be considered. This paper analyzes specific at-risk populations’ accessibility to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) accepting locations using GIS-based estimates of transportation costs. The SNAP program seeks to alleviate food insecurity among low-income groups who qualify for assistance. This study seeks to understand the relative accessibility to SNAP accepting food store locations of vulnerable socio-economic and demographic groups captured at the census block group level. A network-based analysis is conducted using GIS in order to gauge accessibility in terms of walking, automobile, and public transit modes in Leon County, Florida. SNAP accepting stores were also grouped according to store type: other stores (warehouse stores, ie Costco), Supermarkets, grocery stores/specialty stores, and convenience stores with the idea that each category offers access to different quantities of nutritious food at different prices. Ultimately, this study seeks to better understand differences in accessibility across socio-economic groups, emphasizing characteristics such as: vehicle ownership, race, and income. Findings suggest that higher income, high vehicle ownership, and white populations are more accessible to food opportunities than lower income, low vehicle ownership, and African American populations. Particularly, more vulnerable population groups had lower access to supermarkets, which offer the largest variety of food at lower prices by transit than less vulnerable population groups. In summary, this study supports the majority of research conducted on food accessibility citing that vulnerable populations have inequitable access to food stores.