Human Environments Avalysis Laboratory

The Food System, Health and Economic Development

We often think of health as partly mediated by the balance in energy expenditure (through physical activity) and energy intake (through food consumption). Like many other elements of the built environment, opportunities for healthy and unhealthy eating constitute 'food environments' which can facilitate or hinder healthy lifestyles.

'Food deserts', or areas where it is difficult to access nutritious foods, pose many intractable problems for urban and rural areas in our region. What drives the movement of food retailers away from urban areas and small towns? How can we increase access to nutritious foods in these neighbourhoods? What viable strategies exist for encouraging healthier consumption? These are but a few of the many questions we tackle in our research on food systems.

Because the private sector influences the food environment more than other aspects of the built environment, the policy responses vary considerably and must balance market interests with the limits of government intervention. As a lab, we continue to work with local health units and food policy councils in Michigan and Ontario to strategize optimal policies for healthy eating.

Relevant References

Larsen, K., and Gilliland, J.A. (2008). Mapping the evolution of ‘food deserts’ in a Canadian city: Supermarket accessibility in London, Ontario, 1961-2005. International Journal of Health Geographics, 7(16).

Larsen, K., and Gilliland, J.A. (2009). A farmers’ market in a food desert: Evaluating impacts on the price and availability of healthy food. Health & Place, 15(4), 1158-1162.

Sadler, R.C., Gilliland, J.A., and Arku, G., (2011). An application of the edge effect in measuring accessibility to multiple food retailer types in rural Southwestern Ontario, Canada. International Journal of Health Geographics, 10(34).

Sadler, R.C., Gilliland, J.A., and Arku, G. (2013). Community Development and the Influence of New Food Retail Sources on the Price and Availability of Nutritious Food. Journal of Urban Affairs, 10.1111/j.1467-9906.2012.00624.x.

Sadler, R.C., Clark, M., and Gilliland, J.A., in review. An economic impact comparative analysis of farmers’ markets in Michigan and Ontario.

Sadler, R.C., Gilliland, J.A., and Arku, G., in review. Food Retail Investment as an Intervention on Dietary Habits.

Professional Reports

HEAL Consultants, 2012. Mapping Opportunities for Healthy Eating and Healthy Physical Activity in Grey-Bruce, Ontario . Grey Bruce Health Unit: Owen Sound, ON.

HEAL Consultants, 2012. Assessing the Impact of Food Environments on Healthy Eating, Obesity & Health in Sarnia-Lambton. Sarnia-Lambton Community Health Services Department: Sarnia, ON.

HEAL Consultants, 2012. Mapping Environmental Barriers and Enablers for Healthy Food Consumption in Sarnia-Lambton. Sarnia-Lambton Community Health Services Department: Sarnia, ON.

HEAL Consultants, 2012. Assessing the Impact of Food Environments on Healthy Eating, Obesity & Health in Chatham-Kent. Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit: Chatham, ON.

HEAL Consultants, 2011. Mapping Environmental Barriers and Enablers for Healthy Living in Chatham-Kent. Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit: Chatham, ON.

HEAL Consultants, 2010. Mapping Opportunities for Physical Activity and Healthy Eating in Elgin-St. Thomas. Elgin St. Thomas Public Health: St. Thomas, ON.