Poster Paper: GIS-Based Spatial Analysis and Assessing Effects of Ethnic Diversity on Food Access in the Lower Mississippi Delta Region

Friday, November 7, 2014
Ballroom B (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Henry Brooks IV, University of Arkansas
GIS-Based Spatial Analysis and Assessing Effects of Ethnic Diversity on Food Access in the Lower Mississippi Delta Region

Henry Brooks IV

Public Policy-University of Arkansas

Research conducted in the Lower Mississippi Delta (LMD) region of the United States has exposed the existence of high levels of poverty, food insecurity, and the prevalence of food deserts.  Since research has linked low access to healthy foods to higher than national rates of obesity and obesity related diseases such as high-blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease, researchers from multiple disciplines investigate rural food environments for variables that contribute to this phenomenon.  Incidences of these diseases in the LMD region are disproportionally high among African-Americans.  The literature on food access in the LMD region is clear in exposing the limited availability of healthy food options in local retail food locations despite high participation in government, food assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  Additionally, this rural region of the country has concentrated populations of African-American, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian (primarily Vietnamese) residents with culturally diverse food needs.  Each of these ethnic populations is unique in their food demands.  This research uses Geographic Information System (GIS) spatial analysis and mapping technology, and ground-truthing verification to examine the effects of cross-cultural spatial relationships and culturally specific food demand on the local food environment of the Lower Mississippi Delta region of the United States.  Previous research findings provide evidence that immigrant populations demand “culturally appropriate” foods consisting of fresh vegetables and produce while African-American populations are more likely to choose processed foods.  Consumer demand is critical in determining what foods supermarkets and other retail food outlets make available to their customers.  The research hypothesis suggests that in rural areas with limited food markets, food access points with close proximity to the Hispanic/Latino and Asian immigrant populations will improve the diversity and quantity of available fresh produce while those food access points in distant proximity to these ethnic populations will have few offering and less diversity of fresh produce.  The research conducts spatial analysis of LMD county populations and food retail points followed by physical visits to retail locations to assess the diversity of offerings in the region.  Results from these findings will expand the literature on assessing food environments, and inform government food-assistance education programs on the importance of cultural interaction in improving access to impoverished rural areas.