As Reinvestment Fund has worked on improving access to healthy, fresh foods in underserved communities, we have devoted significant resources to understanding such access, particularly in low-income areas.
Among our pioneering efforts in this sector is the Limited Supermarket Access (LSA) analysis.
First developed for the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s CDFI Fund in 2010, the LSA analysis looks at such criteria as income, distance to existing stores and car ownership rates to identify places where households have inadequate and inequitable access to supermarkets. The analysis quantifies disparate levels of food access and estimates the dollar amount that area residents spend outside of their communities (retail leakage). Our LSA analysis is accepted by the CDFI Fund as eligibility criteria for federally-funded healthy food lending. Using this data, community stakeholders can identify underserved locations, estimate demand and plan appropriate interventions.
Update to the LSA
In 2014, Reinvestment Fund updated and expanded its LSA analysis, offering a longitudinal look at the national landscape of access to healthy food and changes in the underserved population since 2005.
According to the updated study, 20 million people nationwide (7% of the population) lived in LSA areas in 2013, a decrease of over 16 million people (or 45%) from 2005, when 36 million people (12% of the population) lived in LSA areas.
States with the largest gains in access to healthy foods included Texas, California, New York, Florida and Pennsylvania. Among states with very low rates of improvement in healthy food access were Washington, DC, Nebraska and Arizona.
Lack of access is particularly problematic in low-income areas and communities of color. The study found that in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Ohio, more than 50% of LSA area residents were low-income. In Washington, DC, almost all LSA area residents were low-income.