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Stephen Porth, Ernest Baskin

Food Insecurity and Population Health: An Empirical Analysis

Food insecurity was on the rise even before the Covid-19 pandemic (United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs). The second of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) focuses on ending hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition. The purpose of this study is to investigate food insecurity and access to nutritional foods in the city of Philadelphia, where, even before the pandemic, 18% of the population lived in food insecure households. Philadelphia has the highest rate of poverty at 25.7% among the ten largest cities in the United States (Hunger Free America, 2018). The food landscapes of 46 neighborhoods in Philadelphia is investigated in order to draw comparisons and conclusions about the relationships between access to healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables and public health outcomes. The food landscapes of each neighborhood is assessed along several dimensions, including the density and types of food store formats (retail) and food service outlets (restaurants) and the availability of healthy foods. These food landscapes are then compared to measures of public health outcomes by neighborhood. Access to healthy foods impacts a community and its food landscape. Prior studies done in other parts of the United States and around the world have examined some of these factors in isolation but have not considered all of them in combination nor have they accounted for the increasing importance of food service outlets on a community’s food landscape. This study addresses that gap by taking a more comprehensive look at the factors - supermarket accessibility, food store and food service availability and density, availability of healthy foods - in combination. In addition, this study takes the further step of assessing the relationships between these factors and population health data such as life expectancy, and rates of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. The IAJBS call for papers for this conference focuses on the theme of “Serving the World with Inspired Business Education.” The call goes on to note that the world suffered “the terrible consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic” in 2020 and “the social and economic asymmetries and inequalities both between nations and within countries have distributed the spread very unequally against the poor.” This paper contributes to the conference theme by focusing on poverty and food insecurity in the sixth largest city in the United States, Philadelphia (population of 1.576 million). This research is part of an ongoing project that began in September of 2019. The public health data for this study was collected from publically available sources. For example, for all 46 neighborhoods in the city, we have data on life expectancy for both men and women, and rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and high cholesterol (Source: “Close to Home: The Health of Philadelphia’s Neighborhoods Report, Summer 2019). In addition, in late 2019 and early 2020, prior to the pandemic, we collected the data on food landscapes using Google mapping technologies. We are now in the process of investigating how the food landscapes and access to healthy foods have changed post-pandemic.