The characteristics, extent and location of ‘food deserts’ in rural and urban areas of Northern Ireland. Agriculture, Food and Human Value Society; Association for the Study of Food and Society and the Food Choice Organisation Joint 1999 Conference Proceedings Crossing Borders: Food and Agriculture in the Americas, Ryerson Polytechnic University, Toronto; 46.

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


The term ‘food desert’ is a fairly recent phenomenon, with emotive and political  overtones and has been described by the UK Government as ”an area of social deprivation in both inner-city and rural areas, where people do not have easy access to a healthy and affordable diet. In Northern Ireland alone, the effects of large retailers building outlets on the periphery of towns, has led to the loss of some 8,000 “local” grocery shops since 1990 – approximately one in four. These closures have had profound effects on rural and urban communities, especially on vulnerable consumer groups such as the elderly, disabled, unemployed and other low-income family units. Smaller retail outlets cannot offer the same range of products and as a consequence their catchment areas are often devoid of an adequate range of fresh fruit and vegetables, Items are stocked that have a reasonable shelf life and are readily sold. Interestingly, in Northern Ireland fewer consumers shop in major supermarket and a lower percentage have access to a car (65%) than their mainland British counterparts. This could indicate that consumers living in Northern Ireland are more disadvantaged by the effects of food deserts. Preliminary research indicates that certain consumers are indeed excluded from an equitable shopping provision, and may suffer health problems as a result of their inability to purchase an affordable healthy diet. Preliminary results also indicate that food deserts exist in rural areas in Northern Ireland, and there is anecdotal evidence that urban consumers also exist in somewhat self-imposed food deserts. This may be exacerbated by the fact that consumers with lower incomes shop locally and more frequently. Shopping diaries provide evidence to support this phenomenon. Further research will seek to quantify these characteristics in relation to which particular consumer groups are the most vulnerable.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1999
EventCrossing Borders: Food and Agriculture in the Americas - Ryerson Polytechnic University, Toronto, Canada
Duration: 3 Jun 19996 Jun 1999


ConferenceCrossing Borders: Food and Agriculture in the Americas


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