Food deserts are a prominent issue in the Community of Hamilton, Ontario. There are clear disparities in the access to food services in the Community of Hamilton. This disparity arises due to a lack of transportation, distance from grocery stores, and income insufficiency. These are just a few of the factors affecting levels of food insecurity in the area that act as the basis and reasoning for our analysis.
By collecting data on the various food services in the Community of Hamilton, we used a Multi-Criteria Evaluation to spatially represent the vulnerability of food insecurity. The results of our analysis indicate areas that are within high risk of food insecurity, providing valuable information for those who may be affected by this phenomenon.
Specifically the analysis showed valuable spatial information such as a concentration of lack of bus stops on the upper west side of Hamilton. This map (located in objective 3) indicates that near the industrial region in west Hamilton, there is little access to public transportation. Our analysis also examined convenience stores and shows that there are high distributions of convenience stores in the middle or downtown region of Hamilton, and less as you move towards the south or middle-income portion of Hamilton. We also displayed distributions of farmers markets revealing their concentration in downtown Hamilton along with food programs located similarly in this region as well.
Understanding where these food disparities exist is the first step to mitigating them. This analysis provides a unique opportunity to provide information that aims to contribute to solving the food insecurity issue. One specific area was identified in the central west side of Hamilton through the suitability analysis that clearly showed the highest vulnerability of food insecurity in this area. This region suffers from being far away from bus stops, and from food service and also is classified as a low-income area. These findings led us to discover that this area is within our definition of a food desert and would potentially benefit from a new food service in that area.
Limitations of this analysis include factors such as the “edge effect” where a service may be just outside a boundary and therefore lacks adequate indication of vulnerability. The accuracy of the spatial data is also limited due to some generalization that occurred. For example, by snapping food services and bus stops to the nearest road network. These factors mean that while identifying an area that is clearly lacking in a food service, the problem could indeed be different than we are able to represent spatially.
This contemporary topic provides the opportunity to take our simplified project and create a more detailed analysis of food insecurity in the area. This topic provides further investigation into food insecurity including more alternative food programs and looking at the bus routes that service the different neighbourhoods of Hamilton. Overall our analysis is general, but provides useful information regarding where food insecurity exists in Hamilton, and provides the opportunity to solve a major social issue in the community.
Our group would like to acknowledge Dr. Wanhong Yang, Masters Candidates Jenelle White and Olivia Carpino, and the help of Professor Adam Bonnycastle for their contributions to this project, as it would not be have been possible without their extensive assistance.