Date of Thesis

4-30-2015

Thesis Type

Honors Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)

Degree Type

Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Peter Wilshusen

Abstract

Human beings rely on food to stay alive. So how is it possible that for so many people, getting their next healthy meal is such a struggle? Food desert and access issues today are framed around the general themes of food availability and stock in stores, geographic accessibility of stores to residents, social acceptability of food options, affordability of food, and availability of public transportation. These challenges and constraints tend to be disproportionally felt by minority and poor communities when compared to wealthy, white communities. A central idea of food access is the idea of "food deserts," areas in which citizens live a mile or more from healthy, affordable food (USDA, 2015). This thesis critically examines differential access to healthy food in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The project first explores the current literature and understanding of food access and food deserts in the United States. Next, I join analysis of urban food access zones within Bridgeport using GIS and interviews designed to elicit a grounded perspectives from families' lived experiences to permit a more nuanced understanding of "food deserts." Interviews and questions around the lived experiences of food access highlight the disparities between the USDA's definition of a food desert: that more than twenty percent of the population falls below the poverty level, and that at least thirty three percent of the population lives more than a mile from a grocery store, and what experienced food deserts truly look like (USDA, 2015, Russell, 2011). While the entire city of Bridgeport meets the USDA's definition of a food desert, I argue that that definition is too general, and does not get at the cultural, economic and human factors that affect and influence food access. More research is necessary beyond this thesis in order to continue to study the nuances and subtleties of food access and food shopping in Bridgeport, as well as urban areas around the United States.

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