Identifying Urban Food Deserts within the Community of Hamilton, Ontario Using GIS
Food insecurity is a prevalent and contemporary issue in many cities due to the emergence of food deserts. Food deserts are areas or neighbourhoods that lack access to healthy, nutritious food. There are numerous health-related issues associated with living within a food desert including obesity, cardiovascular disease, and type two diabetes. The food desert issue is difficult to remedy due to a significant range of different determinants associated with their identification. Factors that influence food deserts are often identified as income level, accessibility to food services and the quality of healthy, nutritious foods that are available at each food service.
The Community of Hamilton, Ontario, has experienced numerous food desert-related issues and was the focus for this project. The purpose of this research project was to use geographic information system (GIS) applications to identify food deserts and to display areas that are suitable for new food service locations in the Community of Hamilton, Ontario. This was accomplished by identifying various factors related to food insecurity, followed by developing a multi-criteria evaluation (MCE) and suitability analysis model to be applied to the Community of Hamilton. The MCE analysis composed of six different criteria including income, and proximity to grocery stores, farmers' markets, convenience stores, food programs and public transit stops. The locations at highest risk of food insecurity were situated near industrial areas, or were located toward the outer edges of the community. An additional MCE was then conducted to identify the degree of suitability that areas possessed for new food service locations, based on proximity to the areas of highest risk of food insecurity. Siting a new food service with the purpose of mitigating food insecurity is a practical approach to achieving a healthier community.