Date of Award

January 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Geography & Geographic Information Science

First Advisor

Enru Wang


This study compared the changes in the healthy food accessibility landscape of St. Paul from 2002 to 2012. Food deserts are areas of limited or no accessibility to healthy food options. Local food landscapes in the U.S. and Canada have changed significantly over the past 50 years as many supermarkets have relocated out of the inner cities and into the suburbs. As a result, many inner city neighborhoods no longer have adequate access to healthy food. Despite supermarkets relocating out of the inner city, small and mid-sized grocers could stock healthy food options. The research questions answered are: Where are the underserved areas in St. Paul at the Census Block Group (CBG) level? How has the food desert landscape changed from 2002 to 2012? Which socioeconomic groups have the highest and lowest access to grocery stores and supermarkets? Grocery stores included all types of grocery stores and supermarkets were defined as grocery stores with more than 50 employees. Each food outlet location from 2002 and 2012 was geocoded and distances were calculated from each population-weighted CBG centroid to the nearest food outlet using the Network Analyst extension in ArcGIS 10.1. To be classified as a potential food desert, CBGs have to be more than 1,000 meters from the nearest food establishment by walking distance and more than 3,000 meters or 5,000 meters from the nearest grocery store by public transit. In addition to these criteria, potential food deserts must have a socioeconomic deprivation index above the fifth quintile of all CBGs in St. Paul. The results showed that there were few food deserts in St. Paul in 2002 and

2012 with the inclusion of public transit at the 3,000-meter threshold for grocery stores and at the 5,000-meter threshold for supermarkets. In 2012, the general trend showed more underserved CBGs by both walking and public transit to grocery stores and supermarkets than in 2002. Socioeconomic deprivation was linked to higher grocery store access but lower supermarket access for both 2002 and 2012. Future research and ground truth data is needed to verify if some of the smaller grocers stock healthy food or if there are other sources of healthy food that are accessible to the underserved CBGs identified in this analysis.