The USDA has mapped out food deserts.

Using public records of grocery store locations and vehicle ownership, the USDA has mapped the locations of “food deserts,” regions where people lack access to decent food. Such areas have been popular to talk about and speculate about, but this is the first effort that I’m aware of to actually locate and measure them. 

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

34 replies on “The USDA has mapped out food deserts.”

  1. Geeze Waldo…. what did all these folks do 50 ,100 years ago when cars were much less ubiquitous.

    I have to say this. this is he KIND of thing that drives Fiscal Hawks absolutely WILD and I’m inclined to agree.

    we’re paying real people, real money, to collect this data and to generate this “nifty” chart….. money we’re borrowing from the Chinese…


  2. Nah, gathering this stuff is easy. The Census Bureau is already finding out who owns cars and where their homes are, and the locations of grocery stores is public record. All somebody did was combine these two data sets to find out where people are who lack access to decent food. That’s got to be really useful information for social services programs, who then have a better idea of where to concentrate their nutrition programs.

  3. Waldo, I’ve been sitting on writing something about this for months. There is at least one other site. Both have been around for a bit with little fanfare. I’ll have to find my links and get back to you about the other one and my thoughts on them.

  4. I have zero use for right wing politics and affectionatoes but it is this kind of thing that gives them mega fodder fro their blather.

    “food dessert” has effete limp wrist snob written all over it!

    geeze … sometimes I think the progressives gin up right-wing catnip on purpose!

  5. Right-wingers, particularly in their media incarnation, will use anything as fodder for their blather. They don’t read studies carefully, they don’t put things in context, they don’t consider long-term pragmatic consequences, etc. They’re going to do that whether “progressives” tip-toe around or not. The right-wing’s knee-jerk reaction to anything and everything is no reason for social scientists and public policy professionals to compile and present useful data that can help improve living conditions and the economy.

    It’s quite likely that 50-100 years ago, when cars were less ubiquitous (though there are also large parts of urban areas today where people don’t have cars), there were more small supermarkets that offered healthy foods closer to people’s homes. My parents grew up in a blue-collar (read: low-income) part of Chicago in the 1930s-40s. Neither of those two extended families owned cars; they either walked places or, in the 50s, caught buses. But there were also far more neighborhood grocery stores that carried what we would “real food,” not convenience store crap (so-called “convenience” foods, snack items, crap). My grandma could walk with her little pushcart just a few blocks to the neighborhood grocery and get decently priced fresh fruit and vegetables and meat.

    Back then, if all the good/real food was available only at a mile or more from her home, she would have been seriously challenged. More than a mile — and then back — is a long way to walk with the little pushcart. Grandma had a lot of other stuff she had to do at home, what with the four kids and all, and the daily two+ mile walk would have taken a huge chunk of her time. Why daily, you might ask — why couldn’t Grandma just go once a week and load up on groceries all at once? Because, of course, 50-100 years ago not everyone had a huge modern fridge to hold all that fresh food. Grandma could store maybe a couple days’ worth of fresh food before she had to stroll down to the grocery store again. Could Grandma have taken public transportation every day to get her fresh healthy foods that were available only a mile or more away? Maybe….money was tight, and daily bus/trolley fare would have take a big chunk of the family budget. All in all, I think it was pretty nice to have a small neighborhood grocery store selling fresh vegetables and meat that she could prepare at home, rather than just fast-food joints and convenience stores selling crap.

    Just for fun, I looked up one of addresses that my grandparents/mom lived at in Chicago (as renters, they moved around a lot). It’s right next to what is now classified as a “food desert.”

  6. what did all these folks do 50 ,100 years ago when cars were much less ubiquitous.

    There were a lot more stores 50–100 years ago, so they walked, rode horseback, or took a wagon to the store. (Before cars, people didn’t just not have cars. They had horses!) Here in Albemarle county, there were dozens of country stores that sold everything under the sun; anything they didn’t have, they’d order for you. Every little village had their own country store: Ivy, Batesville, Stony Point, Free Union, Earlysville, Advance Mills, Cismont, Nortonsville, Davis Shop, Owensville, Millington, Eastham, North Garden, Esmont, and Alberene all, along with many more. Ivy has grown, and now has a few places. Earlysville has grown, but only has one little store since the grocery store shut down. Almost all of the rest of those have either nothing or a faux country store—they sell fancy sandwiches and wine, with just a gesture at actual supplies. (Maupin Brothers, in Free Union, is a strong exception.)

    More important, what people really did differently 50–100 years ago is that they had gardens and livestock. Milk, eggs, and meat are easy to come by when you have a couple of goats and flocks of chickens, ducks, and turkeys. Fresh produce isn’t tough, at least six months out of the year, when you’ve got a good garden—and if you could get some old windows and put together a cold frame, then you were in good shape for eight or nine months out of the year. Of course, they’d put up food to last them through the winter, too.

    Now gardening is something done with leisure time, a past-time of the affluent. We work for money, which we use to buy food. If we cannot get to a place where good food is sold, we’ll eat bad food. That’s the problem here.

  7. only in the US would we have a concept like food “desserts”, eh?

    we have people around the world living in far more difficult conditions but we don’t characterize … say for the sake of argument… folks in Peru or Argentina or Croatia or New Zealand as living in Food Desserts… right?

    I still think it’s mostly a loony left concept…that will inspire the righties to argue that the USDA needs to be closed down….

    when we’re taking in 1.3 trillion in income taxes and we are spending 2.6 trillion by borrowing another 1.3 trillion from the Chinese… and we’re not only business as usual..we’re loony left business as usual.

    help me. help me. I fallen and I cannot get up!

    Just FYI – I DID check my own area. I live in what used to be a all rural county but now is about half and half and the map shows the rural part as being in a “dessert”.

    this is the part where folks live on farms… have gardens.. and yes… live miles from a supermarket but we do still have country stores.

    it’s just bizarre.

  8. we have people around the world living in far more difficult conditions but we don’t characterize … say for the sake of argument… folks in Peru or Argentina or Croatia or New Zealand as living in Food Desserts… right?

    We just call them “starving,” I think.

    I DID check my own area. I live in what used to be a all rural county but now is about half and half and the map shows the rural part as being in a “dessert”.

    this is the part where folks live on farms… have gardens.. and yes… live miles from a supermarket but we do still have country stores.

    “Living on a farm” doesn’t mean “has access to good food.” In vast swaths of the west, you could drive for miles and never see a scrap of food being grown for human consumption. No doubt there are some people with gardens, but there are probably far more people who do not. And country stores often lack decent food.

    To understand malnutrition and this nation’s obesity epidemic, it’s important to understand why people eat the way that they do. It’s known that many people eat unhealthfully because they don’t live near enough to a source of healthful food, and they lack the time, the resources, or the land to grow decent food. Understanding where those areas are is important to addressing these health problems. Teaching people about the need to eat fresh vegetables is a huge waste of time if they simply don’t have access to fresh vegetables. Mapping out these areas is a way to conserve scarce resources and, hopefully, help entrepreneurs spot business opportunities. It’s a totally reasonable thing for government to be in the practice of doing, especially given the tiny amount of resources required (one guy, a computer, and a few hours of time).

  9. …this is the first effort that I’m aware of to actually locate and measure them.

    First, I wonder if Walmart has a map like this or very similar when plotting where to open their next store – demand versus economic climate. Then I wonder if regional grocery chains have similar maps of their regions.

  10. Larry G,

    You have no idea how much was spent to combine this data and you have made no effort to find this out. You’re just complaining about totally unrelated issues of tax policy and debt structure. This is data from the USDA about where food is available. I happen to hate the USDA for a lot of other reasons, but the idea that the Food and Drug Administration made a map of where food is available fits into the basic core idea of what they are supposed to be doing in the first place. If you are going to pick something to be annoyed about, it should be that they didn’t do something like this decades ago.

    I’m sure that this didn’t occur to you when you were writing your comments, but what you are doing is being an internet troll. Grabbing the first comment position to rant about unrelated issues and introduce divisive partisan themes into what should be a straight-forward discussion about a map of where food is sold.

  11. @jackson – “troll”? maybe in your mind but no I made a serious comment- and remember I’m politically aligned with Waldo on many issues.

    I checked my own area for example – an area that has been rural for a long time and where people farmed for a long time and now there are less farms and it is now classified as a food dessert – even though the opportunity for gardens and fruit trees is ample and exploited.

    their kids also go to school where they are fed nutritious USDA-approved lunches.

    most all of them have cars or neighbors with cars and country stores nearby and food lions within 10 miles.

    If I’m sympathetic to govt programs to help people and but I’m concerned that this one is over-reaching then others will see it also – and especially those who think the govt is doing things it cannot afford to be doing.

    It’s one thing to want to do good things – it’s another when you are broke and need to balance the good things with your own financial condition.

    My frustration here is that we have a divided country in part because some feel we are in serious debt and headed for financial calamity and that a lot of programs are well-intended but we simple cannot afford them. It just looks bad no matter how “cheap” they are and promoting them to get attention is a questionable strategy anyhow in this day and time. It’s like bragging that the military created a brand new $600 toilet but DOD is over budget.

    The other half see things as business as usual – just keep on with the programs and don’t worry about whether we can afford it or not.

    now you might think that making such an observation is “trolling” .that’s your opinion and my opinion is it is off the mark badly. I’m concerned about the country and our gridlock in Washington and why we can’t seem to come together to deal with our problems.

    that’s “trolling”?

    I volunteer at food bank and do you know how folks get there? By car and by transit and they pick up food for their neighbors . Most have decent cars and they spend their time in line talking on cell phones.

    there is no centralized registry to make sure the same folks don’t show up at other food banks either …but I digress.

    So I object twice. To the concept of food desserts in the first place – which is a silly concept in a world context. I simply do not think they exist in any meaningful way in the US and 2nd it’s going to be perceived politically as a waste of money that we do not have anyhow …and the right will then find out how many GS-15s work on this program and splatter it across the right wing echo chamber – winning more people over to their views and win elections.

    Have you noticed what has happened to State after State including Va lately? This is how that happens.

    Those on the political left (and I include myself), have to understand and accept the fiscal and political realities now days.

    We want to find some political middle ground so we can go forward. The current idea that one side or the other will “take over” govt and do what they want in spite of the other side is not only dividing the country – it’s stunting any chance for us to try to find at least some common ground to go forward and instead we end up with a GA like we have this year – look at the bills the conservative majority is now pushing through.

    That’s what frustrates me. and if you think that is “trolling’ then I would surmise that you perhaps are one of those that is the problem that bedevils us as a country – and that’s a much worse kind of troll IMHO.

  12. Access to food shouldn’t be a political ball game. Firstly, I make maps for a living — GIS maps and data, which is what I do. This did not take some herculean effort to assemble and present. It really is combining data and presenting it. This stuff has become even easier that just 2-3 years ago. If the Tea Party is looking for a government program to demonize as the excess of the “effete limp wrist snob” left, this will be a very poor example. Secondly, this USDA map has been around since at least May of last year ( That is quite a while for the political machine to find attack and mischaracterize. Where are all these attacks? There is another set of maps and data that has been around since at least November of 2010. This one is done by the private GIS company Esri. So not government made, but the data is all gov. This concept is well established and I have yet to see any serious effort to undermine and discredit this concept.

    I know there will always be people ready to say this is a waste and that the gov shouldn’t be spending this money on this. I think this is good policy; those that have a different opinion are welcome to debate it. But it sounds to me like your objection is to the gov doing this on the basis that they should have thought of the political backlash of a few (yes few) extreme government haters that would most likely disapprove of ANY program the gov does. That would be something an “effete limp wrist snob” would do. So they can do nothing correctly in some people’s eyes.

    Here is Esri’s explanation of “Food Deserts” and how they are mapping them:

    Here is the interactive map that Esri has made. It is the one I was alluding to in my comment above.

    Waldo is spot on in his explanation. With the way our food distribution has gone in modern American society, we have limited certain people’s ability to have access to healthy food. Both of the sites do a pretty good job of showing the data for the country. It certainly isn’t perfect. We can point out the flaws in the data and the display, hopefully to help these projects continue to serve a purpose and become even more meaningful.

    And lastly, someone mentioned the world perspective. Sure people have it worse elsewhere. They also have worse economies elsewhere. Are you seriously suggesting that since it is worse elsewhere, we shouldn’t think about trying to solve our relatively bad problems in America. Why are we talking about unemployment and the economy when there are so many other places in the world that have higher unemployment and crumbling economies? Here is an example of a mapping site that focuses on starvation and hunger in the Horn of Africa. This project does not invalidate the food deserts in the US — Just as helping abandoned animals doesn’t invalidate finding a cure for cancer. This isn’t a zero-sum game.

  13. It’s not the maps guys per se. It’s what they purport to show and what the response from the govt should be (or not).

    when you have the govt – rather than the private sector producing these maps what is the implication of that?

    for some people – they see it as yet more advocacy for the got to “do something” – at a time when they think we already are doing more than we can afford to do.

    first, I’m called a troll and then an advocating of 3rd world status for the US.

    come on guys!

    we SPEND TWICE AS MUCH as we take in – in taxes.

    We do have “needs” but the trick is accepting the realities of what we can afford verses what individuals have to do for themselves.

    Food “desserts” do not imply starvation or even a lack of nourishment. It means ” eating food that’s not as good for you”.

    This is a govt problem when we’ve got 15 trillion in debt and adding to it every year?

    You can make the case but others will also say that by focusing on this, we are looking at problems that we simply cannot afford to deal with right now.

    I think we all have a duty to establish priorities when we are this deep in a fiscal hole and if we refuse to make them ourselves our friends on the right will and they almost surely will cut things we consider more important.

    What I am suggesting here is that this is an example of something we cannot afford right now even if there is such a need but I further say that as a “need” this is not a real need. People who live in rural areas – that have been rural since the country was founded that are now classified as food “desserts” is a ridiculous concept in my view – and folks I’m entitled to that view and I’m mostly on your side and opposed to the right wing view of things.

  14. First of all, there is little more fundamental than food. I beleive it deserves a top priority. Economy, defense, many other things are societal constructs that get lower billing when it comes to funding. No food, no society to dream up even having the concepts of money, war, community.

    Waldo summed it up nicely above when he outlined the changes our country has gone through where rural communities no longer have the markets to get most of their needs. Those markets today, if they exist, are now more like convenience stores. The ability to get food now, with our transportation the way it is, is not as easy as it was for some. These problems do exist. They are real and are not going away on their own. They could get worse with inaction.

  15. but we’re not talking about “food”. we’re talking about “good” food” at a time when many in the world are starving and at a time when we are deep in debt.

    at some point, people, as individuals, have responsibilities to look after themselves and there is no shortage of food and ample ways for people to get “good” food if they really want to.

    is it a “problem”. yes, of course. is it a government problem? NO!

    At some point, we take responsibility for ourselves and don’t expect the govt to look after us.

    remember – this is coming from what many call a “leftie”.

    we are empowering the right wing with this kind of stuff.

    they are using these kinds of examples to win over people from the middle – take over the legislatures and then put in place their priorities.

    We’re enabling and empowering them to win elections and put in place much, much worse policies that will make this one look even sillier.

    It’s ALL of our jobs to use some common sense especially at a time when we are deep in debt and the right wing waiting in the wings to wipe out govt as we know it.

  16. So much is out of the hands of those that need help. It is so easy to say, “c’mon, just have some responsibility!” If only it was that easy! These are problems created by society that are not solved through gumption and a hard work ethic. The food people many people have access to is slowly killing them. The problem is also that it isn’t as painfully obvious as starvation in Africa. And right now, private industry is motivated to sell people crap to make a buck at the expense of the low income. The industry isn’t motivated to educate people how to eat a healthy meal, they don’t care how healthy it is, as long as you keep buying (you’d think they wouldn’t want to harm customers, but the cigarette industry proved many corps will knowingly kill their customers — and some companies that distribute food also make cigarettes). I think it is in the interest of the government to teach people how to eat healthy meals. To many it is not common sense, they have not been exposed to the options.

  17. Two things from Larry G:

    “nutritious USDA-approved [school] lunches”

    “ample ways for people to get ‘good’ food if they really want to.”

    I think that pointing to the availability of school lunches as a reason why we shouldn’t worry about the areas of the country where access to good healthy foods is limited is flawed. If you’ve spent any time in a typical American elementary school cafeteria, you’d see the problem. Offering French toast sticks with syrup and a sausage patty, fruit cocktail in syrup, and chocolate milk for lunch isn’t much of a nutritional safety net. I’ve gone on school field trips and seen the kids who receive free/reduced price lunches sit down to their official field-trip school lunch, consisting of…no lie…a Lunchable ™, of which the kids ate the treat/sweet part and drank the juice box and threw away the rest (which consisted of high-sodium high-fat lunchmeats and a few semi-whole-grain Ritz crackers anyway). Why not just send them down to the Quickie Mart and let them pick out chips and sodas?

    Second, I think what the map shows us is that there are NOT “ample ways” to get to “good food.” Perhaps Larry G you are imagining that by “good food” we mean high-end gourmet food. “Good food” means healthy food, as in fresh fruits, vegetables, fresh meat, as opposed to pre-packaged convenience foods and snack foods. Perhaps you should be airlifted into the middle of an urban food desert with the challenge of obtaining a week’s worth of fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, fresh meat, all at reasonable prices, so you can prepare healthy meals for your family. If we’ve allowed private enterprise to create this problem (and that’s what’s happened — the demise of small groceries is related to the near-monopoly power of the big-box “grocery” stores and their control over the distributers, and the convenience store industry — then I do think it’s a responsible function of government to highlight the problem and open up a discussion of ways to solve it.

  18. Are people here misspelling the word “desert” on purpose? Is calling it a “dessert” some sort of hilarious pun that I’m just not getting?

  19. what the map shows is in many respects what rural america looked like many years ago – and it has not changed much.

    ya’ll seem to think it is up to the govt or industry to “educate” people about things that they ought to be taking personal responsibility for themselves.

    Listen, I AM… ALL FOR cigarette warnings.. I am ALL FOR nutrition labelling. I am ALL FOR schools providing healthier lunches and I am ALL FOR the govt restricting what Food Stamps can be spent on and I note to folks here that the govt provides transit and transportation to “undeserved” populations.

    I’m ALL IN FAVOR of ALL OF THAT even as I tell you that the right wing will gladly do away with all of it if they get complete control of the govt.

    What I’m telling you is that this a point beyond which IMHO we have gone too far.. and the average middle of the road person is susceptible to right wing propaganda and that we ought not to be handing them issues like this on a silver platter.

    you have to modulate your personal beliefs with the current political realities if you want to preserve at least some of it.

    take a look around you.

    The legislators are becoming increasingly conservative because the independent voter is being persuaded by right wing rhetoric.

    we ought not be giving them ammunition for their cause.

    and for me.. this is an example of doing that.

    There are a lot of “needs” that we have in this country but we are broke and no amount of arguing can change that fact and the right wing is using that narrative to successfully advocate closing down as much government as they can accomplish in the newly-conservative legislatures.

    I believe in helping people. I believe in education. But what we are doing now is going to ultimately hurt both if the right continues to convince the middle of their beliefs..

  20. along with desert/dessert, you also used “undeserved” when I think you meant “underserved,” which a more cynical person than me would say was a Freudian slip.

    “ya’ll seem to think it is up to the govt or industry to ‘educate’ people about things that they ought to be taking personal responsibility for themselves.”

    that, I’ve never understood: it’s patently clear that people aren’t taking “personal responsibility” for. “ought” is the most pointless word I can think of in terms of discussing public policy. people simply aren’t. so what then? industry isn’t going to be the friend of the great mass of people who ought to practice better nutrition — industry is the enemy. industry would like them to buy MORE Fritos and Pepsi, not less. that leaves government with somewhat less of a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. I get the part about the right using anything and everything government does as a cudgel to beat Obama and Democrats with, but I’d rather not see the government give up on public health projects; beyond the obvious benefit of improving people’s lives, there are the costs to taxpayers from poor nutrition (Type II diabetes, anyone?).

  21. I don’t think the govt should give up on helping people to be informed but I still think there is a line between informing and setting up programs to “help”.

    As someone who does have Type II – my “care” including sending me to a nutritionist and the long and short of what she told me was to pay attention to the nutrition labels for carbs but especially fat.

    Now.. I never saw this as a need to eat only certain foods but instead to pay attention to what I was eating and to recognize what were not good foods to eat and to …within the constraints of my own options – refrain from overdoing the bad foods.

    The last words I received as I left was that it was up to me to be informed about what I ate – my responsibility.

    I thought that was good advice – for anyone.

    being poor or living in a poor section of a town or countryside does not mean you have no choice but to be uninformed.

    Even with meager offering in local stores. there still are good or better choices.

    When I grab a big Mac or a basket of fried chicken.. it does not mean that I need to govt to help me find better food…

    surely folks see this…

    the vast, vast, vast majority of overweight, type II diabetes folks in this world do NOT live in food deserts.

    it’s a classic “do gooder” mentality and riles up the right and even people in the middle.

    If we on the left are going to fall on our swords over something.. let’s not make it “food deserts”…

    mia culpa for the desserts and underserved….


  22. “I don’t think the govt should give up on helping people to be informed”

    the information is out there, has been for a long time; clearly, simply “informing” doesn’t get it done. yes, it ought to be easy to make good nutritional choices, yes people should have willpower, yes people should simply read the labels and eat the right things. They aren’t. You realize that, don’t you? That even though you listened to your nutritionist and are controlling your Type II, that huge numbers of people are not, despite having had the same information presented to them?

    People continue to make bad nutritional choices, and I as a taxpayer continue to pay for their bad choices. This isn’t “do-gooderism”; this is a common-sense effort to reduce the public costs of poor nutrition.

    Your line of argument — that this is a matter of personal responsibility and people simply ought to make better choices — is one that serves to make the speaker feel simultaneously off-the-hook and morally superior. “I’m serving my kids great healthy meals, there’s no reason why that mother can’t do the same, end of discussion.” So the speaker goes off feeling awesome and meanwhile the kids whose parents are letting them eat Cheetos and baloney on white bread washed down by 32 ounces of Dr. Pepper every day are going to end up obese and with Type II, and the medical costs associated with what is likely to be a lifetime of poor blood glucose control are going to be paid by….everyone.

    Why on earth would we want to identify a problem that costs millions and millions of $$s and take no action to solve it and thus to reduce the cost? why as a taxpayer do I even have a government if it’s not going to look for ways to reduce these kinds of costs? I don’t want a passive bystander government, standing on the corner handing out ineffectual pamphlets and shaking its finger at people, “now really, make some good choices, okay? pretty please?”

  23. re: the govt’s role in dealing with people who make bad choices that end up costing other taxpayers money.

    now THAT’s what I CALL a HEFTY CONCEPT!

    individual mandate: ” YOU WILL EAT PROPER FOOD or we’ll sic a bunch of bureaucrats on your butt”.


  24. yeah, you’re right. they should just print some pamphlets and leave them lying on a table where people can pick them up if want to. meanwhile, you and i can pay later on for the amputations, heart attacks, blindness, etc. i don’t know what i was thinking.

  25. This seems to illustrate the gap between the desire for a government that makes financially sound decisions and the desire for a government that appears to make financially sound decisions.

    Let’s pretend that this mapping project cost, say, $5,000. That’s the cost of a single emergency room visit. The annual cost of diet-related health problems to taxpayers is surely way into the billions. So providing this data only has to prevent a single emergency room visit—it only has to change the diet of a single person—for it to be a net gain for taxpayers.

    Larry, you’re no conservative, but I think that this illustrates well a divide between conservatives. There are those who actually favor government that takes actions that save money for the country and its citizens, and there are those who favor government that does less, regardless of whether that smaller government is actually more expensive.

    This is a project that both helps to better target existing public spending and helps private business determine where to direct its own investment, performed at what is surely a very low cost, likely to pay for itself thousands or even millions of times over. That just makes good sense to me.

  26. ” There are those who actually favor government that takes actions that save money for the country and its citizens, and there are those who favor government that does less, regardless of whether that smaller government is actually more expensive.”

    yeah..but when you’re broke to start with…

    Conservative folks truly believe that it’s not the job of govt to look after you – even if you end up costing the govt (other taxpayers) money.

    the staunch conservatives believe they should not be paying for your health care either -you should. Notice how they feel about ObamaCare? :-)

    if you don’t take care of yourself and you don’t have health insurance – then expecting the govt to take care of you is the height of irresponsibility in their minds.

    here’s what I am saying here.

    you have to understand what conservatives think and why they think it.

    you do not have to agree with it but you must recognize the reality of how they will govern if/whn they get control.

    take a look at the Va legislature this year if you need confirmation of that thesis.

    and things like Food Desert Maps make them WILD!

    take my word for it!

    like I said.. you don’t have to agree… just be aware

    if the GOP takes the House and Senate – the agency that did that Food Desert is TOAST – pun intended!


  27. Conservative folks truly believe that it’s not the job of govt to look after you – even if you end up costing the govt (other taxpayers) money.

    the staunch conservatives believe they should not be paying for your health care either -you should. Notice how they feel about ObamaCare? :-)

    I think you’re ignoring the rather large, third group of conservatives, who believe that it is the job of government to perform those tasks that are beyond the scope of corporations or that it can do more efficiently as a result of its scale, enabling the market to behave more efficiency.

    and things like Food Desert Maps make them WILD!

    I don’t really just don’t care if it drives them wild. I think this is something that’s so clearly a good idea that why not let ’em fuss? President Obama won the election, and with that comes his agenda, which includes precisely this sort of thing. (On reflection, my own work for the White House is conceptually similar to this—taking public data and making it available in new and interesting ways that makes it more useful to citizens.) It’s a ridiculous thing to get upset about, something so very inexpensive and the subject of a great deal of public interest.

    It’s nothing a change in messaging wouldn’t solve. This very data could be relabeled as a “National Business Opportunity Map” and the Chamber of Commerce would give the White House an award for it. :)

  28. a change in messaging?


    you KILL ME guy!

    you clearly do not understand the right!

    and it’s THEIR “messaging” that is willing over independent voters these days.

    I’m WITH YOU on your basic politics but our brand of political beliefs is under heavy attack and is doomed to fail if we fail to understand the right and their intentions.

    no matter how worthwhile a govt program may be (and even that is debatable in this case IMHO), when the country is broke – we have to pull back. Triage is necessary.

    That’s the “message” from the right that independent voters in the middle – the ones that decide elections – do believe and will vote on.

    You need to go no further than the current makeup of the Va Gen Assembly to see the results of that sentiment. PBS funding (for example) is probably gone.

    At the national level – the House belongs to the GOP and the Senate hangs by a thread and a GOP House and Senate is not at all inconceivable.

    all I’m saying here …is don’t hand the right even more ammunition.. at least until AFTER the elections!


  29. I guess I’ll weigh in as a token conservative.

    I guess I don’t have a problem with the notion of mapping out food deserts. As Waldo and Derek point out it’s a really easy task since the data from the census would just need to be indexed according to supermarkets, etc. As Waldo notes, this is something that could have come out of the Chamber, and in fact you can almost guarantee (in response to grs’s wonderings) that Walmart and other businesses have similar maps. (Although, side note, Walmart wouldn’t necessarily just pick a “desert” and then build there and watch people flock, they might just avoid those areas and just build next to the neighborhood grocer and try and compete with them in their own backyard.)

    So while I don’t have a problem with the government putting a map like this out there, what does concern me is what the government hopes to do with a map like this. That’s where my fiscal hawk feathers start to tingle and I start clutching my wallet a bit closer. Claire writes, “I don’t want a passive bystander government, standing on the corner handing out ineffectual pamphlets and shaking its finger at people, “now really, make some good choices, okay? pretty please?”” in response to Larry’s point about personal responsibility. THAT is what scares fiscal hawks and limited-governmentophiles like me. We don’t want more “nanny-state” government programs (as Larry takes to the finale): “”YOU WILL EAT PROPER FOOD or we’ll sic a bunch of bureaucrats on your butt”.”

    Just think… And then you liberals/progressives could defend the government mandate to buy broccoli under the Commerce Clause. ;-)

  30. Michael, can you, as a conservative, explain to me how you’re comfortable with skyrocketing public health care costs resulting from obesity and poor nutrition particularly among the poorer end of our population, and government taking no action to reduce those costs?

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