Economic and Geographic Access to Food Retailers and Emergency Food Pantries
This study describes the environment in which low-income households acquire and purchase food by examining the local population characteristics of areas with and without emergency food pantries and by examining the locations of food pantries in relation to the retail food environment. We found that emergency pantries are located in areas (census tracts) in which individuals have low socioeconomic status and where there is high demand for services that pantries offer. About 25 percent of high-poverty areas without a retail food store have at least one pantry compared with 15 percent in all areas. Among high-poverty areas without supermarkets or superstores, 41 percent have at least one pantry. The study also finds that areas with one or more retail stores are more likely to have one or more pantries. Among retail store types, the relationship is strongest for convenience stores. The percentage of areas with at least one pantry increases from 22 percent in areas with no convenience stores to 44 percent in areas with more than one convenience store—a 22 percentage point increase. For supermarkets and superstores, this increase is about 12 percentage points—from 28 percent in areas with no supermarkets or superstores to 40 percent in areas with more than one store. Among areas with no stores, however, the percentage with at least one pantry is substantially higher in higher-poverty areas. Thus, while pantries and food retailers are located in similar areas, a sizable percentage of high-poverty areas with no stores have at least one pantry.