May 24, 2019


Understanding Access to Grocery Stores in Food Deserts in Baltimore City


1:40pm - 3:00pm


1605 Tilia, Room 1103, West Village


As American cities have seen a change in land uses in urban areas, with stores moving to suburban areas increasing the reliance on cars, many urban areas are left with a lack of accessible quality food options. These “food desert” locations, where residents lack both access and sufficient economic resources to purchase healthy food, result in health disparities for residents in these communities. Decades of population loss in Baltimore have resulted in nearly one in four residents living in food deserts. Using a food acquisition questionnaire, this study analyses the travel patterns of 500 residents in Baltimore City. The study found that most residents, regardless of vehicle ownership, do not shop at their nearest grocery store. However, those who own vehicles shop more frequently. The study showed that grocery delivery services do not yet close the food accessibility gap as adoption was positively correlated with income. The findings suggest that current food desert metrics should deemphasize distance to the nearest grocery store and instead look at the number and variety of stores accessible within a given time or distance.

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Celeste Chavis is an associate professor in the Department of Transportation and Urban Infrastructure Studies at Morgan State University. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy (2012) in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley and is a licensed Professional Engineer in the State of Maryland. Her research explores the intersection of transportation operations and planning, and equity in the United States and abroad. Recent work includes topics on transit signal optimization, accessibility, bicycle safety and travel behavioral modeling.

She has worked with several agencies including Baltimore City Department of Transportation, District Department of Transportation, IBM Africa and the Tanzanian government. Additionally, she is a senior transportation advisor to the TBCG Development Group. Dr. Chavis is a member of the Institute of Transportation Engineers and is a Secretary of the Paratransit Committee of the Transportation Research Board.

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