International Development, Community and Environment (IDCE)

Date of Award


Degree Type

Research Paper

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Community Development and Planning (CDP)


International Development, Community and Environment

Chief Instructor

Prof. Ramón Borges-Méndez


The mapping of food deserts has become a standardized component of food and health policy work concerned with expanding food access. These maps often follow a similar format of spatially identifying where grocery stores are absent in communities, thus suggesting a straightforward problem diagnosis and intervention blueprint. This paper questions the over-emphasis among many food and health policy practitioners on these technically engineered policy stories, specifically for their obstruction of histories of white supremacy and capitalism within the US food system and urban landscapes. A mixed-methods approach is applied to a case study of Worcester, MA which appropriates GIS to ask different food access questions informed by the history and social context in which food systems exists and the work of local community development and food access practitioners. Centering a critical examination of social relations and power dynamics by challenging notions of which actors matter, what factors shape food access, and the relevance of certain interventions can reveal a robust pathway towards community food autonomy.





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