Poverty and Poor Food Environments
(Poverty and Income Policy)
Saturday, November 14, 2015: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Brickell North (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Panel Organizers: Jill K. Clark, The Ohio State University
Panel Chairs: Abigail Steiner, Tufts University
Discussants: Tamara Dubowitz, RAND Corporation
Interest in the link between poverty, diet and place is increasing among policy-makers. As such, place-based policy responses that focus on the food environment are on the rise. For example, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2014 contained funding for new initiatives and increased funding for long time programs aimed at improving food environments for low-income Americans by increasing healthy food access. New initiatives include the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program (increasing the purchasing power of SNAP participants at local farmers markets) and Healthy Food Financing Initiative (reducing financial barriers to incentivize new grocery stores to locate in communities with limited healthy food access). The panel proposed here addresses the primary purposes of the conference theme by engaging a variety of disciplines (public policy, economics, and geography), a variety of organizations (universities and federal agencies), and methods (agent-based modeling, longitudinal study, and spatial analysis) to inform place-based policies that address the link between poverty, diet and the poor food environments.
The first paper, “Poverty and food environments: EBT access to healthy and unhealthy retailers over space and time” is motivated by changes in the geography of poverty – a result of the Great Recession – and EBT access to both healthy and unhealthy retailers. Point data for EBT authorized retailers is coupled with tract-level census data to examine the relationship between poverty (and other socioeconomic factors) and EBT access between 2000 and 2010. Results suggest that unhealthy and healthy retailers have different responses to changes in poverty and population. Changes in poverty play a greater role in the location of unhealthy outlets, whereas changes in population play a greater role in the location of healthy outlets. Other aspects of the tract, such as racial composition and rurality, also play a role.
The second paper expands the conversation by presenting panel data that quantifies the exposure of low-income individuals to poor food environments over their life course. Integrating several datasets, this paper describes exits, entries, spell length, and accumulated exposure to neighborhoods with poor food environments. The results are important for understanding how long individuals are exposed to poor food environments and to poor neighborhoods. The results will also add contextual information about which subgroups have the greatest exposure to poor food environments, for example, by racial or ethnic group or by the level of family income.
The final paper, “Analyzing Consumption and Dietary Health in the Context of Food Disadvantaged Communities,” uses a simulation model to explore three policy options to address healthy food access in communities: 1. SNAP benefits, 2. junk food taxes, and 3. subsidy policy to open new grocery stores in communities with limited access. These scenarios bring an understanding of what set of consequences may arise from different place-based policy alternatives targeted at low-income communities when a natural experiment is either impractical or impossible to conduct.