Food deserts are a big problem for many of Hamilton County’s impoverished families, but University of Cincinnati professor Michael Widener is heading research that looks into how mobility can alter perceptions about neighborhoods that lack access to healthy foods. So far, his findings have suggested that some people might have access to healthy foods throughout their daily commute despite being classified as living in a food desert.
Widener says the research is necessary to make identifying food deserts more accurate by taking into account the dynamics of everyday urban life, particularly people’s movements throughout the day, to see how they impact people’s access to food.
Still, Widener cautions that his findings don’t dismiss the problems caused by food deserts: “Of course, there are a lot of assumptions being made, like are (these commuters) totally drained after work? The biggest (assumption) is of course that (someone has) a car.”
Widener says his findings could impact how public officials approach food desert policies.
He points to potential stopgap measures, such as better access to public transportation, that could alleviate the pains of living in a food desert searching for a more permanent solution.
In Hamilton County, many of the identified food deserts are in neighborhoods on the city’s West Side, including Price Hill and Queensgate. Cincinnati’s food deserts are just one problem being addressed by Plan Cincinnati, the city’s first master plan in more than 20 years (“Core Future,” issue of Sept. 5).