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Planning / Baltimore Food Policy Initiative / Food Deserts

gardenFood Policy Task Force Recommendation “Support Research on Food Deserts and Collaboration with Policy Makers"

BFPI is working closely with the Department of Planning (DOP) and Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) to better understand the current status of the city’s food environment through mapping areas of low access and refining the food desert definition.

The Baltimore City Food Desert map  provides a clear picture of the need and demographics of the residents living in Baltimore City food deserts. These maps are essential to the work of BFPI because they define the areas of greatest need, track progress, and help to better inform policy recommendations that aim to increase access to healthy foods in and around food deserts and to improve the overall food environment in Baltimore City. Ongoing analysis of the food desert map will help BFPI develop the most appropriate food policy and food retail solutions in food deserts.

Baltimore City Food Environment

Food deserts are defined as:
An area where the distance to a supermarket is more than ¼ mile, the median household income is at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level, over 40% of households have no vehicle available, and the average Healthy Food Availability Index score for supermarkets, convenience and corner stores is low (measured using the Nutrition Environment Measurement Survey).

Read about the methodology behind the Food Desert Map and use the Interactive Food Environment Map. Download more food desert statistics

Food Desert Map Key Demographic Findings (2012):

  • 1 in 5 Baltimore City residents live in food deserts. (Approximately 125,000 -or- 20%)
  • Nearly 1 in 4 of Baltimore’s school aged children (0-17) live in a food desert. (approximately 31,000 -or- 23% of Baltimore’s population)
  • 1 in 4 of Baltimore’s African American population lives in a food desert. (approximately 105,000 -or- 26% of Baltimore’s population)
  • In a food desert, 1 in 4 households receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, twice the percentage of non-food desert households. (13,000 households or 24.5%)
  • 1 in 3 of Baltimore’s neighborhoods (36%) are located within a food desert. (100 out of 278)
Source: 2010 Census Data and the Department of Planning

Food Desert Resources

Below are some resources that provide background on obesity, food deserts and food access. Key national partners involved in increasing access to healthy food include Let’s Move and The Partnership for a healthier America.

USDA Food Desert Map: BFPI is collaborating with USDA to develop a more comprehensive food desert definition.

Lead Collaborators: Center for a Livable Future and the Department of Planning 


Department of Planning

Baltimore Food Policy Initiative
Office of Sustainability
Department of Planning
417 E. Fayette Street, 8th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21202

Holly Freishtat, MS
Baltimore  City Food Policy Director
(410) 396-9509
Holly Freishtat

Sarah Buzogany
Food Access Coordinator
(410) 396-4359
Sarah Buzogany

Alice Huang
Healthy Food Coordinator
Alice Huang

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