Retail Concentration, Food Deserts, and Food Disadvantaged Communities in Rural America Troy C. Blanchard* Mississippi State University Thomas A. Lyson Cornell University * Funding for this study was provided by the Food Assistance Research Small-Grants Program, of the Southern Rural Development Center and Economic Research Service and a grant from the Research Initiation Program at Mississippi State University. Please direct correspondence to Troy Blanchard, Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS 39762. Email: [email protected]
. Troy C. Blanchard is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Research Fellow of the Social Science Research Center at Mississippi State University. His research interests include social demography, stratification, and rural sociology. His current research focuses on the relationship between the structure of food retailing and nutrition related outcomes.
1 INTRODUCTION For many residents of the United States, purchasing groceries is a minor inconvenience rather than a major obstacle. In 1995, a standard shopping trip for the average U.S. family involved a six-mile drive lasting no more than 12.5 minutes (U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration 2001). For other Americans, especially those in rural areas, the time and distance traveled to purchase groceries is significantly longer. A report by the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates that residents of rural communities in the Lower Mississippi Delta endure a far different journey to the shopping center (Kaufman 1998). For example, rural counties in the Delta average one supermarket per 190.5 square mile. Additionally, over 70% of the low-income population in the Delta traveled 30 or more miles to purchase groceries at supermarkets in an effort to avoid high priced smaller grocers and inadequate quality food sold at convenience stores and gas stations.