The Effects of Spatial Scale and Aggregation on Food Access Assessment: A Case Study of Tucson, Arizona

Katharine Yang Bao, Daoqin Tong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


Adequate access to healthy food has become a social issue due to the recent Great Recession and heightened levels of unemployment. Geographers have focused their attention on how to accurately evaluate food access and how to identify and delineate food deserts; that is, low-income neighborhoods where affordable and healthy food is lacking or limited. Findings of recent food access studies are, however, dramatically inconsistent. We argue that spatial scale and the level of aggregation used in constructing food access measures could account for a major portion of the varying results. We draw on an empirical study in the Tucson, Arizona, metropolitan area, to examine how varying geographic scales and aggregation methods affect food access assessment. We also provide an analysis to show how spatial scale and aggregation practices lead to inconsistent conclusions about food access and designation of food deserts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-347
Number of pages11
JournalProfessional Geographer
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 3 2017



  • aggregation
  • food access
  • food desert
  • spatial scale

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes

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