When are food deserts? Integrating time into research on food accessibility

Health Place. 2014 Nov;30:1-3. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2014.07.011. Epub 2014 Aug 21.


The food desert concept is used as a means for defining regions as having inadequate spatial and socioeconomic access to vendors selling nutritious foods. This primarily aggregate-level and static method for understanding the food environment is commonly used by researchers and policy makers seeking to improve health outcomes of those affected by reduced access. However, recent research findings have brought the association between living in a food desert and adverse health outcomes into question. In this viewpoint, we put forward the idea that the food desert concept, and food accessibility research more generally, should be expanded to include a temporal component, and note potential avenues for future research.

Keywords: Food accessibility; Food deserts; Health geography; Space-time accessibility; Spatio-temporal analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Commerce*
  • Food Supply*
  • Geography
  • Humans
  • Research*
  • Spatio-Temporal Analysis
  • Time Factors