New study on Baltimore City food deserts shows slight improvement

BALTIMORE, Md. - In Baltimore City getting groceries can be an ordeal.

"I would catch the bus to the supermarket, ask a friend for a ride, pay for a taxi," Sheena Ham said about lugging groceries back to her home.

She grew frustrated as responsibilities piled on over the years, "the elderly people, disabled people, they were depending on myself and other family members to help them out."

The Department of Planning and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future examined the problem, creating a map with red splotches indicating areas in need.

They looked at four factors to create the map:

  • The average Healthy Food Availability Index score is in the lowest tier.
  • The median household income is at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level.
  • Over 30% of households do not have a vehicle available.
  • The distance to a supermarket is more than a quarter of a mile.

Where the four overlap dictates the "Healthy Food Priority" areas (the new name for food deserts).

The study showed the need decreased a few percent compared to 2015. That's due to a new Save-A-Lot on Monument Street, that provided food access for 5,000 people.

The collaborative also created a group of resident equity advisors, people like Ham, who share their experience to effect policy change.

"You could actually see them doing the work after collaborating with us and it was phenomenal," saying she felt like it was the first time a policy maker actually heard her.

Things like supermarket tax incentives are now in place to entice them to open locations within the city.

Right now there are about 700 corner/convenience stores and 47 supermarkets in the city, according to the collaborative.

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