CRF Blog

The Distance to Your Groceries

by Damon Huss


Click on the image to enlarge. (Image licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC, by

FlowingData has posted this map to illustrate how far people in the United States need to travel in order to reach the nearest grocery store. The map shows “a sample of locations across the country, and line length represents distance to the nearest [grocery] store.”

The map here also shows areas of the United States that might be considered “food deserts.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture has defined food deserts as “urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food.” People living in food deserts do eat, of course, but they “are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options.”

As noted, however, in the article “In Search of Food Deserts” that accompanies the map on FlowingData’s page:

Places where residents have limited access to grocery stores are called food deserts. However, there’s no exact definition of what limited access means or what a long distance is. Some set a 10-mile marker whereas others say a store should be less than a mile away where there is a lot of pedestrian traffic.

FlowingData creates maps, charts, and graphs of all kinds of statistics and demographic information about contemporary life. They call it “data visualization.” As stated on the site’s About page, data visualization “lets non-experts make sense of it all.”

What classroom uses can you think of for this particular data visualization?