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Access to Sustainably Produced Food: An Investigation of
Organic Food Availability in Manhattan, New York

by Laura Mirscha and Carolyn Dimitrib

http://dx.doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2012.023.001, pp. 193–209



Increasing access to food and improving the sustainability of producing and marketing food are both goals of the "food movement." One problem embedded in these dual goals is that improving access relies on low-priced food, while increasing sustainability of the food system necessarily raises prices. Further complicating the discussion is the fact that while the definition of a sustainable food system is intuitive, it is also vague, which does not make an analysis of sustainable food simple. Thus we use organic food as a case study to provide insight into the availability of a sustainably produced (but not necessarily sustainably marketed) food. This paper is a first step toward exploring potential links among availability, access, and consumers. Using a new data set of in-store organic food availability in Manhattan, mapping suggest that stores that carry a wider range of organic products are located in neighborhoods with populations that are both highly educated and affluent. Neighborhoods with a higher proportion of black households have little access to organic food. Bivariate correlation coefficients find that the relationship between education and organic food access increases as the level of education rises, that median household income is positively associated with organic food availability, and that the relationship between the proportion of black residences is weakly and negatively correlated with organic food availability.


Keywords: demographics, food access, GIS, organic food availability



a Graduate student, Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health; New York University; 411 Lafayette Street 5th Floor; New York, NY 10003 USA

b Corresponding author: Carolyn Dimitri, Associate Professor; Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health; New York University; 411 Lafayette Street, 5th Floor; New York, NY 10003 USA; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Banner photos include a Cape Cod cranberry bog; a cranberry “screen house” used to grade fresh cranberries; farmland near Lake Placid, NY, in the Adirondack Mountains; Montmorency cherry trees on the Mission Peninsula of northern Michigan; the historic Round Barn in the South Mountain Apple Belt of Adams County, Pennsylvania; the “Sea of Grapes” district of the Lake Erie Concord Grape Belt, near Erie, Penn; a field of cabbages near Shortsville, NY, home to one of the world’s largest sauerkraut factories. All photos copyright by Duncan Hilchey.


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