New York City is home to hundreds of thousands of people living in so-called food deserts. These are urban areas where it is difficult to find affordable or good-quality fresh food. Fast food and other options are plentiful, but not necessarily healthy. Racial residential segregation is linked to health inequalities in the U.
S., and one of the main factors is the characteristics of the physical environment of the neighborhood. To better understand how residential segregation among blacks could contribute to health risk, researchers examined the unequal distribution of retail resources in areas with different races. A combination of visual and analytical methods was used to investigate whether predominately black census groups in New York City had poor access to retail stores important to health. After controlling for retail demand, average household income, population density, and the number of subway passengers, the percentage of blacks was associated with longer travel distances to several retail industries.
This suggests that black neighborhoods in New York City are facing a red line in retail. The Union Square green market is a great example of how access to food can be improved in a community. It began in 1976 with just seven farmers selling twice a week. Bronx Works has partnered with eight supermarkets and wineries to increase the visibility of healthy options by using signs and offering visits to grocery stores.
Other initiatives include hundreds of green carts in New York City that sell fruits and vegetables at a reduced price. Future research is needed to determine how red lines in retail can perpetuate health disparities and socioeconomic disadvantages. It is important for New York City to support “green cars” that sell agricultural products, have community gardens, and continue initiatives like green carts that offer fresh food options at a reduced price.