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Thursday, 16 October 2014

Can Community Gardens and Farmers’ Market Relieve Food Desert Problems? A Study in Edmonton, Canada

By Haoluan Wang, Feng Qiu, and Brent Swallow

This research was published in the December 2014 edition of Applied Geography.



Three things you need to know about Food Desert and Fresh Food Assessment: 

  1. Food deserts are commonly defined as regions that lack access to healthy foods. Typically, a food desert is referred as a populated low-income area with limited access to full-service supermarkets.

  2. There were 58 registered community gardens and 14 approved farmers’ markets in the City of Edmonton by the year 2013.

  3. Eight food deserts are identified based on low accessibility and three based on high needs across the city, and community gardens can relieve food desert problems for inner-suburban neighborhoods.

Three myths about Food Desert and Fresh Food Assessment:


Myth #1: Food deserts are always in the suburban and peripheral areas.

The Reality: None of the food deserts we found is in peripheral regions. Most of the identified food desert neighborhoods are scattered in the inner city.


Myth #2: Community gardens and farmers markets can always relieve food desert problems as they add the fresh food supplies.

The Reality: Community gardens can only relieve food desert problems in inner-suburban neighborhoods, while for farmers’ markets, there seems to be no significant effect.


Myth #3: Food deserts are neighborhoods that have the longest distance to fresh food suppliers (e.g., supermarkets).  

The Reality: Not really. Food deserts are not only defined by the proximity to supermarkets, but also by demographic and socio-economic characteristics.


Haoluan Wang, is a Master student in Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology at the University of Alberta. His research interests include food desert assessment, land use policy, and agricultural land conservation.

Feng Qiu, is an Assistant Professor in Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology at the University of Alberta. Her research interests include agricultural policy, price and market analysis, risk and insurance modeling.

Brent Swallow, is a Professor and former Chair in Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology at the University of Alberta. His research interests include watershed management, rural poverty and economic development market-based instruments for environmental management.


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