Date of Completion

Spring 5-8-2011

Thesis Advisor(s)

Katie Martin

Honors Major

Allied Health


Other Public Health | Public Health


The U.S. has seen a spike in chronic diseases along with worsening health outcomes. There are many factors at play to create these circumstances, especially regarding the social determinants of health, like socioeconomic status, access to food, and geographic location. Another concern is health disparities, particularly regarding obesity, and the fact that food access and neighborhood food environments contribute to these disparities. This paper gives a broad overview of American food culture and then focuses on the local food environment in urban, low-income communities, regarding both food deserts and food swamps. There is also a discussion about the response of the emergency food system and its flaws. Emergency food is only a short-term solution and more sustainable solutions need to be provided. There are new models around the country that are trying to address the problem of food access, like innovative food pantries or city commissions finding policy approaches to these problems. Finally, this paper presents a policy brief of recommendations as a product of this review. These policy recommendations are my contribution to the field of public health and health disparities.