Improving Access to Healthy Food in Durham’s Food Deserts: A Policy Analysis

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The USDA categorizes food deserts as low-income census tracts with poor access to fresh produce. This lack of access to healthy food has been linked to public health problems such as obesity, diabetes, strokes, and cardiovascular diseases, leading to higher disease rates, health bills, and mortality rates within food deserts. Today in Durham, over 43,200 residents live in food deserts; this is 16.2% of the county population, and 16,800 more people than in 2012. To address the growing food desert problem in Durham, this report will develop a set of policies detailing how the city government along with private businesses can improve food access. The policies considered will target ways to improve access, specifically to locally sourced produce, in order to promote local agriculture and businesses as well. Furthermore, the policies will focus on short-term access and only those that do not overlap with federal food desert policy. Four policies will be analyzed: (1) the status quo, (2) added benefits to Electronic Benefit Transfer (food stamps) and Women, Infants, and Children benefits for shopping at local markets, (3) establishing new farmers’ markets in food deserts, and (4) establishing mobile markets operating in food deserts. They were developed based on case studies of other municipal actions to improve food access, and interviews with local stakeholders to apply them to Durham. Each policy will be analyzed based on its expected costs and benefits, its political feasibility and actors required for implementation, equity concerns, and the policy’s improvability and adaptability.





Tucker, Dylan (2014). Improving Access to Healthy Food in Durham’s Food Deserts: A Policy Analysis. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.