Plotting Our Foodshed

By Roger Mainor

bcFELLOWs declare a public interest area for study. Themes such as density, connectivity, public space, practice, equity or others are explored.  Over the course of the fellowship year, each Fellow will share discoveries made during their investigations with final work published for public benefit. 

food systems4
food systems4

What is the food landscape in Dallas, and how does this affect choice and the accessibility of food in the city?

Food, even though it is an essential human need, has not historically been within the purview of city and regional planning. Yet, the food environment, the composition of enterprises and infrastructure that makes food available to individuals, is the single most important determinant of how and what people choose to eat. With increasing concerns over food security and how contemporary diets are affecting public health, more attention has been directed towards understanding the food systems and the accessibility of food. Many cities, such as New York, Portland, and Seattle, are conducting expansive research and undertaking significant planning efforts to address perceived deficiencies within their local food environments.

Using 2010 census data, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has identified tracts within the country that lack access to fresh foods, such as fruits and vegetables from supermarkets. These food deserts come about from factors such as income levels, population density, transportation access, and proximity of fresh food retailers. Communities designated as ‘food deserts’ have become focal points in cities combating food access and public health issues. However, the issue of food accessibility requires a deeper understanding of the city and the region as a whole, rather than isolating and analyzing segments of it.

This investigation will begin to build an image of the food environment within the city of Dallas and North Texas, collecting and synthesizing existing information. Using this image, Dallas’s food environment will be analyzed through the lenses of accessibility, affordability, and availability. These analyses will be further contextualized by engaging residents in dialogue about the choices that they make. Do the behaviors of individuals confirm the patterns emerging from analysis? Or are the common perceptions wrong, begging another series of questions and investigations?

Roger Mainor, a 2012 bcFELLOW, is from Alabama and is interested in architecture, cinema, urban spelunking, and growing and cooking his own food.