Refining Rural Food Deserts by Transportation Networks

PI: Hyung Jin Kim and Gregory Newmark, Kansas State University
Collaborators: David Procter and Nancy Knopp Daniels (Kansas State University); Glen Muske (North Dakota State University); Lori Capouch (North Dakota Assoc. of Rural Electric Cooperatives)

Project Abstract

A critical concern for the sustainability of rural communities is access to food. Food access promotes the health of rural residents as well as the stability of rural areas. These concerns are particularly pressing for weaker social groups with limited means to travel, such as older adults, disabled persons, and low-income households. Effective public policy to enhance rural food access needs to be based on a rigorous understanding of the actual travel and activity behaviors of rural residents. To date, these patterns have been unexplored with the result that policymaking continues to rely on simple, distance-based models of food deserts imported from urban environments – models which may not translate fully to the very different rural context where longer, chained-trips are common. This research seeks to explore the food access patterns of rural residents to better inform public policy. Specifically, this study aims (a) to reframe rural food access within the context of rural travel behavior that considers the distribution of food outlets using a GIS-based spatial network model; and (b) to understand rural food access barriers and disparities. This study will examine the grocery-related travel of rural residents in the twelve-state NCRCRD region, with additional focus on communities in Kansas and North Dakota, by combining the highly-detailed, geocoded information on trip and activity behavior from the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) with a full GIS mapping of food outlet location data. This quantitative work will be complemented by focus groups conducted through community extension programs in Kansas and North Dakota.