Food Deserts in the Prairies? Supermarket Accessibility and Neighborhood Need in Edmonton, Canada


  • *Research funding was provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and GEOIDE. The authors thank postdoctoral fellow Dr. Nairne Cameron, and student research assistants Vladimir Yasenovskiy, Julia Healy, Nicoleta Cutumisu, Jared Hewko, Mark Pickersgill, Sherry Diehlman, and Kris Ridell for their assistance in the research. We wish to note that the term “unsupportive local food environments,” which we use in this paper, was kindly suggested by one of the referees. We also thank the five anonymous referees for their insightful comments on this paper.


The U.S. and U.K. literatures have discussed “food deserts,” reflecting populated, typically urban, low-income areas with limited access to full-service supermarkets. Less is known about supermarket accessibility within Canadian cities. This article uses the minimum distance and coverage methods to determine supermarket accessibility within the city of Edmonton, Canada, with a focus on high-need and inner-city neighborhoods. The results show that for 1999 both of these areas generally had higher accessibility than the remainder of the city, but six high-need neighborhoods had poor supermarket accessibility. We conclude by examining potential reasons for differences in supermarket accessibility between Canadian, U.S., and U.K. cities.