Assessing the Methods in Identifying Rural Food Deserts: A Quantitative Systematic Review

Assessing the Methods in Identifying Rural Food Deserts: A Quantitative Systematic Review

Amirmohsen Behjat1, Aleck Ostry2, Christina Miewald 3 and Bernie Pauly4

1Assistant Professor in Healthcare Studies, Husson University, United States.
2Canada Research Chair in the Social Determinants of Health, Professor, Department of   Geography, University of Victoria, Canada.
3Adjunct Professor, Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University, Canada and Adjunct Professor, Department of Geography, University of Victoria, Canada.
4Associate Professor and Associate Director, School of Nursing, University of Victoria, Canada.

American Journal of Agricultural Research

It has been around two decades that the food desert concept was introduced to assess the geographic accessibility of healthy food stores in deprived urban and rural communities. Despite the contribution of this strong tool in evaluating food insecurity, the methodological aspects especially in rural areas have been less discussed in the literature. The aim of this study is to explore and compare different methodologies in identifying rural food deserts based on the related major elements. A systematic review was conducted on published English language studies that used quantitative methods to identify rural food deserts up to December 2015. Twenty studies met the criteria and were included in this study. The results from these studies indicated the four major key elements (food availability, geographic accessibility, deprivation indicator(s), and geographic unit of analysis) were used and quantified by researchers in their methodology to identify rural food deserts. We also found out that measuring food deserts involves a high degree of sensitivity, as any changes in quantifying the elements may significantly impact the final results. Thus, the advantages and disadvantages of quantifying each element is discussed in a greater detail in this study. This will help researchers to develop a better food desert methodology which produce more comprehensive and accurate results in future.

Keywords: Rural Food deserts, Food Availability, Geographic Accessibility, Geographic Unit of Analysis, Deprivation Indicator

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