Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Food access, accessibility, availability, affordability, acceptability, and accommodation

Major Advisor

Debarchana (Debs) Ghosh

Associate Advisor

Chuanrong Zhang

Associate Advisor

Kenneth Foote

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Food access is an important measurement in food deserts and food insecurity research, yet it is one, which has not been defined or employed systematically in urban settings. To some authors access refers to physical distance to grocery stores, or simply the number of stores, while to others it characterizes factors such as price and quality of food sold. This ambiguity leads to contrasting delineation of food deserts, which has ramifications on estimating its effects on vulnerable populations and subsequent food policies.

The main goal of this dissertation is to formulate a taxonomic index of access, which summarizes a set of multidimensional factors - accessibility, availability, affordability, acceptability, and accommodation. This index is an extension of Penchansky and Thomas’ theoretical model of access and its relation to consumer satisfaction. The secondary objectives are to i) design and build a user-friendly toolbox in a popular GIS software package (ESRI’s ArcGIS) to calculate travel time by public transit time between points of interest using Google Direction API; ii) assess the vulnerability of food insecurity among low-income and ethnic minorities in the events of supermarket redlining; and iii) using survey data assess the role and needs of local grocery stores to be an alternative source of nutritious foods in place of large chain supermarkets.

There is no study to our knowledge to date, which has applied such a robust model of access to identify and understand the implications of low access to nutritious and affordable food on neighborhoods and communities experiencing food insecurity. We hope this study can help influence recommendations for the Hartford Advisory Commission on Food Policy and promote action from other city agencies to improve food availability, quality, and stores’ internal/external appearances in Hartford.