Interventions to improve access to fresh food in vulnerable communities: A review of the literature

Denise Smith, Stephanie Miles-Richardson, Le Conté Dill, Elaine Archie-Booker

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: "Food desert" is a term used to describe lowincome communities without access to healthy, fresh food within a one-mile radius of their residence. The limited access to healthy foods in urban African-American communities may be a critical factor in the development of nutritional disorders and associated chronic disease in this vulnerable population. Research has shown that community gardens are a promising intervention for addressing food quality and access issues. This study aimed to assess whether improving the local food environment through community gardens can increase accessibility to healthy foods in Metropolitan Atlanta communities assumed to be food deserts. Methods: A systematic literature review was conducted to identify best practices of community garden projects in order to address food deserts in metropolitan cities. Next, a windshield survey was conducted in the Adamsville community in metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia to determine if a food desert was present, and to provide an analysis of the local food environment. Results: Twenty-nine articles were reviewed and eight best practices were identified as effective strategies in metropolitan cities. We found that community gardens had only minimal impact on food access issues in urban communities due to seasonal accessibility and low yield. The windshield survey revealed that the Adamsville community was not a food desert because it had access to healthy foods within a half-mile radius. Conclusion: While the literature review revealed that community gardens had a minimal impact on food access in urban communities, food policy advocacy and supermarket tax incentives were identified as effective ways to promote healthy community development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)409-417
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal on Disability and Human Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • African Americans
  • Community gardens
  • Disability
  • Food deserts
  • Food policy
  • Public health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Sensory Systems
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing
  • Speech and Hearing


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