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Developing a Mobile Produce Distribution System for Low-Income Urban Residents in Food Deserts


Low-income households in the contemporary city often lack adequate access to healthy foods, like fresh produce, due to a variety of social and spatial barriers that result in neighborhoods being underserved by full-service supermarkets. Because of this, residents commonly resort to purchasing food at fast food restaurants or convenience stores with poor selections of produce. Research has shown that maintaining a healthy diet contributes to disease prevention and overall quality of life. This research seeks to increase low-income residents’ access to healthy foods by addressing spatial constraints through the characterization of a mobile market distribution system model that serves in-need neighborhoods. The model optimally locates mobile markets based on the geographic distribution of these residents. Using data from the medium-sized city of Buffalo, New York, results show that, with relatively few resources, the model increases these residents’ access to healthy foods, helping to create a healthier city.

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Correspondence to Michael J. Widener.

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Widener, M.J., Metcalf, S.S. & Bar-Yam, Y. Developing a Mobile Produce Distribution System for Low-Income Urban Residents in Food Deserts. J Urban Health 89, 733–745 (2012).

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  • Access to healthy food
  • Food deserts
  • Spatial optimization model
  • Mobile market
  • Buffalo, NY