Around 23.5 million Americans live in a “food desert”, areas where there is little to no access to fresh food or full service grocery stores. This problem has affected Louisville for decades now, as local/community grocery stores have largely been wiped off the map. Food deserts are a health and equity problem, in an urban context especially, food deserts tend to disproportionately affect minority communities. These areas also produce worse health outcomes such as a higher risk of cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and overall worse community health.
Food desert has been a popular term used by researchers, but a more accurate term would be “food apartheid”. Areas affected by this phenomenon don’t lack food due to some naturally occurring desertification, but rather this is the result of intentional policy and systematic racism against minority communities. Studies of these areas have found that grocery store access is associated with race and income, Louisville has a legacy of systematic racism in its urban design that can be seen in where grocery stores are located.
Many can still access groceries using a car, but if you don't have a car or do not wish to drive a long distance in order to get groceries, you may be forced to get low-nutrition groceries from a dollar store, about 1 in 5 Americans now get groceries at dollar/discount stores. This paradigm also imposes a forced cost on low-income residents, who may have to spend money on gas and car repairs in order to be able to access fresh food. Walkable access to grocery stores can be hard to come by even outside of food deserts, studies in other cities have shown it is especially difficult for low-income areas to be able to walk to get groceries.
The web app below explores the food apartheid in Louisville specifically and how it is intertwined with walkability.