Next time you’re going to complain about lugging a few bags back from the grocery store on foot, you should really take a look at Nathan Yau’s most recent data visualization. The statistician behind Flowing Data has plotted the nation’s food deserts, which by definition is any place residents have limited access to grocery stores, and it’s pretty staggering how far some people have to travel just to pick up common goods.
A couple months back Yau looked at the location of major grocery stores across the country—which parts of the nation shopped at HyVee, which shopped at Publix and so on. If you mentally overlap the maps, you start to see gaping holes where there’s seemingly no place to buy food at all. “That eventually got me wondering about the reverse,” Yau says. “Where there aren’t many nearby grocery stores.”
Zoomed in, each dot you see on the map is a grocery store, and the red lines represent how far a town is from the nearest. The longer the line, the farther the distance from a store. If you’ve ever driven across Nevada on the Loneliest Highway, it makes sense that the state is covered in red starbursts until you get to the areas surrounding Las Vegas and Reno. Likewise, if you zoom in on Montana, you can see how the length of red line increases gradually as you move into the eastern, more mountainous part of the state. And the spots where the red lines are faint or fade into the background? Those are the spots where groceries are aplenty.
The map is an interesting look at reverse population density, and it does take stock of a very real problem. But it would be fascinating to be able to zoom in and analyze the issue more closely at the urban level, where food deserts are a major concern. Yau touches on this idea in the original post, and concedes, “Of course, there are still other considerations like transportation, food cost, and population, but I think this view is a good start.”
Full article: How Do You Map America’s Scary Shortage of Fresh Food? (Wired)