Feeding the Hill: Mapping the Creation of a Food Desert in the Hill Neighborhood of New Haven, CT

First name: 
Last name: 
Class Year: 
John Wargo
Essay Abstract: 
Over the last twenty years, food justice scholarship has centered around the idea of the food desert, an area defined by high numbers of low-income residents with limited access to fresh, healthy food. Although many nonprofits and governments have tried to implement solutions to food deserts, they have enjoyed limited success due to a lack of consensus about the causes behind the food desert phenomenon. I argue that the federal definition of the food desert is insufficient and instead propose a definition centered on food security, which is made up of food access, food availability, and food use. I then explore how historical drivers have affected food availability and food access in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven over the course of the twentieth century. Using arcGIS, I map changes in grocery store locations, population, income, and transportation data between 1950 and 2000 to test the hypothesis that, by my definition, New Haven has become less food secure over time. Although I come to indefinite conclusions about whether food access and availability significantly decreased between 1950 and 2000, I use my results to critique the Hill-to-Downtown Community Plan, a recently-published renewal effort for the Hill, and to provide recommendations for future food desert research and policymaking.