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Mapping Baltimore City's Food Environment

June 01, 2015
CLF Report

Amanda Behrens Buczynski, Holly Freishtat, Sarah Buzogany

Baltimore’s residents have different levels of access to healthy food based on their specific circumstances. The 2015 Food Environment Map and Report is a culmination of years of data collection, analysis and strategizing around innovative solutions to improve access to healthy food. The Baltimore Food Policy Initiative (BFPI) and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) created this 2015 Food Environment Map and Report in order to better understand Baltimore’s food environment and food deserts - areas where residents lack both access and sufficient economic resources to purchase healthy food - and to more proactively and effectively promote equitable access to healthy food. The materials and information contained within provide a resource to inform decision-making in policy, planning and legislation related to healthy affordable food access, and in improving health outcomes.

Baltimore City’s food environment is a complex system of the built environment, marketing, advertising and social environments, all of which are influenced by government policy, cultural norms and market forces. This report primarily focuses on the retail food environment, but also considers food assistance and urban food production.

Food Desert Definition: An area where the distance to a supermarket or supermarket alternative is more than 1/4 mile, the median household income is at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level, over 30% of households have no vehicle available, and the average Healthy Food Availability Index (HFAI) score for all food stores is low.

Based on this definition, the 2015 map reveals:

  • One in four of Baltimore City residents live in areas identified as food deserts.
  • Children are affected disproportionately, with 30 percent living in food deserts.
  • African Americans have disproportionately low access to healthy food and are the most likely of any racial or ethnic group to live in a food desert neighborhood.

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