“Oh honey, don’t you know?” The Social Construction of Food Access in a Food Desert
Food deserts are demarcated areas characterized by limited food access, often defined by geographical distance from grocery stores. Literature suggests that food deserts are produced through uneven development, but also racial bias in the location of grocery stores. Socio-economic inequalities thus intersect with racialized landscapes, and this suggests that food deserts are both culturally and economically produced. Research on food desert solutions often emphasize narrow spatial analyses that privilege geographic solutions, as well as incorporate whitened understandings of access to food. We assert that food access is shaped by the racialized construction of places, and that small-scale grocery stores, which are understudied in food desert research, may be useful places to study how access to food is culturally produced. Using intercept interviews inside and outside of two small-scale grocery stores, we examined the production of social exclusion around food access in a USDA classified food desert in a small Southern city. We conclude that economic development that integrates community organizing and place-making activities are keys to mitigating social exclusion in food deserts, and call for further research on in the role of place in shaping access to food.