In those neighborhoods that epidemiologists identify as “food deserts,” access to food is difficult and limited to unhealthy options, whereas in “food oases,” access to healthy food is easier and widely available. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Mexican Chicago, this article moves from the deterministic, spatial frameworks of food deserts and food oases toward a meaning-centered framework of residents' creation of food access and acquisition. Many residents feel that, given the metropolitan structure of Chicago, they can access the resources necessary for their gastronomic lives. Further, they do not conceive of food access as embedded in a static environment but as created from their activities and their opportunities for mobility. They treat the wider Chicago metropolis as their community, particularly areas that are easily accessible by car. Immigrants explain that they can find products from their homeland. They report that compared to past decades, the availability of Mexican products is greater today: both a larger variety of products and an increased diversity of outlets that sell these products. These findings suggest that in the case of Mexican Chicago, the dual imageries of food desert and food oasis are inadequate. Residents highlight access to transportation and the presence of stores that cater to a wide variety of eaters.
Food Desert or Food Oasis? Insights from Mexican Chicago
Gary Alan Fine is James E. Johnson Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University. He is the author of Kitchens: The Culture of Restaurant Work (University of California Press, 2009) and other essays on food culture and restaurant occupations. He is known for his research on the sociology of culture.
Coline Ferrant, Gary Alan Fine; Food Desert or Food Oasis? Insights from Mexican Chicago. Gastronomica 1 November 2020; 20 (4): 85–89. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2020.20.4.85
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