Spatial disparities in access to fast food restaurants and healthy food providers in Erie County, NY
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This thesis intent to assess the food environment in Erie County from the angle of the prevalence and impact of unhealthy food (fast food) and its spatial disparity in access with healthy food providers (or retailers). My first research question is: To what extent, are Erie County's residents exposed to fast food restaurants? To address that, information of fast food locations within Erie County will be obtained and then geocoded in GIS software to analyze their distribution. Analysis will be based on census block group level. The level of exposure will be addressed through proximity to those locations and reflected by the number of residents that lives close to fast food restaurants. Proximity to unhealthy food is just one side of coin of the food environment problems in Erie County. It is also important to explore the access to healthy food locations for Erie County's residents and compare their levels of exposure/access to fast food outlets. Thus, the second research question of this thesis is: How does the healthy food providers distribute among municipalities within Erie County? Is there any spatial disparities in access between fast food locations and healthy food providers for all residents and other groups of people? This thesis will try to compare the distributions of fast food restaurants and healthy food providers by mapping them through GIS software. The association of exposure of fast food exposure with neighborhood characteristics, especially the socio-economic status of residents, can help us try to correlate the exposure to fast food to certain groups of people, which will be considered as "vulnerable groups". The groups of people that severely impacted by the spatial disparities of fast food restaurants and healthy food providers could also be seen as "vulnerable groups". Finding out vulnerable groups of people would provide insights for policy makers and other planning practitioner to set up plans and strategies accordingly. Thus, my third research question is as following: Which groups of people are most exposed to fast food restaurants in Erie County? Conclusions will be based on the results of correlations with level of exposure and the comparison of the level of spatial disparities between population of Erie County with other potentially vulnerable groups of people.