Knoxville Food Deserts: Why They Matter and Strategies for Meeting Neighborhood Food Needs

Lola Alapo


The United States Department of Agriculture has identified at least 20 “food deserts” in Knoxville—neighborhoods without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options. Lack of access contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases. Access, however, can lead to a better quality of life and drive economic development for the city. There are numerous efforts afoot in the city that are attempting to address this problem. The Knoxville movement mirrors ongoing efforts statewide and around the country, in that solutions being developed are coming from within the community. In 1982, Knoxville created the country’s first official food policy council to target food access inequalities. Recently, the City of Knoxville has been reviewing its policies and overlapping zoning regulations regarding urban agriculture and land use. This study includes interviews with various members of the Knoxville community who are involved in addressing the food desert issue. It also features efforts local and nationwide that are tackling the food desert problem and next steps in dealing with this issue.

Food Deserts (PDF)