WIT Press

The Importance Of Food Retail Stores In Identifying Food Deserts In Urban Settings


Free (open access)





Page Range

89 - 98




433 kb

Paper DOI



WIT Press


A. Behjat, M. Koc & A. Ostry


While food deserts in urban places have been fairly well studied in North America and Europe, there is little consensus on the best conceptual and operational definition for food deserts. In most of these studies researchers concentrate on mainstream grocery stores and supermarkets as the only sources of healthy and affordable food options especially in cities with diverse ethnic population. The purpose of this study is to expand this usual approach to food desert studies by investigating the inclusion of ethnic food stores and specialty stores as sources of healthy food options in a multi-ethinic Toronto neighbourhood. The Englemount-Lawrence neighbourhood was selected for this study as it has been identified as a food desert in previous studies in Toronto. An in-store survey was conducted in order to identify ethnic and specialty stores which supply healthy and affordable food options based on US Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines. Using Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis, all qualified ethnic food stores in the study area were geocoded into a neighbourhood map and a buffer of 1000m was drawn around each. We found out that ethnic food stores supplying healthy and culturally-accepted food options are evenly dispersed across the Englemount-Lawrence neighbourhood. We conclude that, unlike in previous studies, this neighbourhood is not a food desert. Furthermore, failure to use an inclusive set of healthy food stores and culturally acceptable food choices, in neighbourhood studies of food deserts can significantly alter the results in the study area and hence mislead food planners and policymakers in decision-making. Keywords: food desert, food availability, ethnic food stores, Englemount- Lawrence neighbourhood.


Keywords: food desert, food availability, ethnic food stores, Englemount- Lawrence neighbourhood.