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Food deserts: is it only about a limited access?

Francine Rodier (Department of Marketing, School of Management Sciences, University of Québec at Montréal, Montréal, Canada)
Fabien Durif (Department of Marketing, School of Management Sciences, University of Québec at Montréal, Montréal, Canada) (Observatoire de la consommation responsable ESG UQAM, University of Québec at Montréal, Montréal, Canada)
Myriam Ertz (Observatoire de la consommation responsable, School of Management Sciences, University of Québec at Montréal, Montréal, Canada)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 3 July 2017

Abstract

Purpose

Previous research has extensively examined “food deserts,” where access to healthy food is limited. However, little is known of the buying behavior at the individual household level in terms of buying habits and consumption in these areas. The purpose of this paper is to determine to what extent other factors than access can account for the purchase of healthy food products, namely, fruits and vegetables.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper proposes to partially fill this gap through a qualitative (n=55) and quantitative (n=512) study of those people who are in charge of their household purchases in two food deserts in the city of Montreal.

Findings

Results show that geographical access to supermarkets is not the main factor fostering the purchase of healthy foods (fruits and vegetables). Indeed, food education (e.g. information, simple recipes, cooking classes), associated with a changing mediation process through product diversification (e.g. availability of local products in bulk) and supply (e.g. farmers) seems to be more significant.

Research limitations/implications

Future studies could compare the results obtained through this study in different socio-demographic contexts. Longitudinal analyses could also increase the understanding of the social and commercial challenges.

Originality/value

In contrast to previous studies, the results show that geographical access to supermarkets is not the main factor fostering the purchase of fruits and vegetables. Indeed, food education (e.g. information, simple recipes, cooking classes), associated with a changing mediation process through product diversification (e.g. products in bulk) and supply (e.g. farmers) seem to be more significant.

Keywords

Citation

Rodier, F., Durif, F. and Ertz, M. (2017), "Food deserts: is it only about a limited access?", British Food Journal, Vol. 119 No. 7, pp. 1495-1510. https://doi.org/10.1108/BFJ-09-2016-0407

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited