Mapping The Rural Food Desert

this image links to the Food Desert Locator

The Rural Blog recently covered the USDA’s release of their interactive Food Desert Locator map, and this news seems to inform our previous post on Matthew Moore’s Digital Farm Archive. The USDA defines a food desert as “a low-income neighborhood with high concentrations of people who are far from a grocery store.” Al Cross, writing on The Rural Blog, breaks down the rural component:
To qualify as a “low-income community,” a census tract must have a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher, or a median family income at or below 80 percent of the census tract’s median family income. To qualify as a rural “low-access community,” at least 500 people and/or at least 33 percent of the census tract’s population must reside more than 10 miles from a supermarket or large grocery store. 

There is a bitter irony to these demographics, as many of the very areas that are producing food for the entire nation are themselves enmeshed in a food desert. At once, it only makes more prescient the work of artists and writers ranging from Mr. Moore to Wendell Berry and Michael Pollan. Given that central cities are the other primary locus for food deserts, this Locator map also reveals the common challenges facing rural and urban Americans–and perhaps opens up another line for dialogue and cooperation.