Center for Urban and Regional Analysis

A division of the L. Douglas Wilder School of government and Public affairs

NSF Food Desert Planning Project - collaboration between VCU - Engineering, CURA, Life Science, and ICubed Initiative

Aug 2020 - 

Dr. Sherif Abdelwahed, Dr. Nasibeh Zohrabi, Dr. Sarin Adhikari, Dr. Brittany Keegan, Dr. Brian Verrelli, Dr. Johnathan Jones, Dr. Basil Gooden

The overall goal of this planning project is to assemble a core group of scientists in engineering, life sciences, social work and government policy colleges to engage with community leaders and stakeholders, to (a) identify through both quantitative and qualitative assessment the key challenges to sustainable food access in Richmond and its adjoining communities, and (b) create the knowledge and tools for community-based sustainable food access program. Data sources and outputs from the city of Richmond will be used to advance a fundamental understanding of the factors that contribute to the formation of food deserts and their impact on the region's social and economic progress.

Utilizing new technologies to improve food access for a large segment of the community is not a straightforward task. There are a lot of questions to be answered in order to realize the potential of these technologies, including (1) What are the data needed to better understand and help address the food desert problem? (2) What are the social and economic impacts of food deserts? (3) What are the main factors contributing to limited food access in certain geographical areas? (4) What are the technologies and cyber-infrastructure that can help address the food access problem? (5) How to encourage micro-businesses to help tackle limited food accessibility? (6) How to present food
desert data efficiently to help in decision making? As these challenges are defined by a complex and diverse set of problems, it has been widely noted that urban ecosystems require a diverse set of solutions. The following research materials summarize the extent of the NSF Food Insecurity project currently underway at VCU through a collaboration between VCU School of Engineering, Wilder School's Center for Urban and Regional Analysis (CURA), VCU Department of Life Sciences, and the iCubed Initiative.


NSF_Planning_VCU Workshop Food Access Survey_Verrelli


NSF_Planning_Redifining Food Deserts_Jones

NSF_Planning_The State of Food Desert in Richmond_Adhikari

NSF_Planning_Food Equity and Access_Keegan

NSF_Planning_Food Access and Community Dev_Accordino

NSF_Planning_The Role of Technology in Food Security_Zohrabi



Urban Commercial Revitalization Graduate Class, Fall 2020: Food Access Report and Recommendations for the City of Hopewell, Virginia

May 2020

Brandon Archer, Aaron Berryhill, Anjewel Bland, Derek Cathcart, Gabrielle Dean, Margaret Gallagher, Noah Holmes, Foster Jane Howk, Albert “Buck” Kirtland, Molly Mallow, Dan Motta, Julia Ochieng, Grace Stankus, Jeffrey Szyperski, Rachael Thayer, Annie Weidhaas

This report identifies challenges and opportunities within Hopewell’s food system to provide City officials with options and recommendations to increase food access. The recommendations are based on demographic study, site visits, surveys, interviews, and a competitive market analysis conducted to assess food accessibility and affordability issues in the City of Hopewell.

Food Access Report and Recommendations for The City of Hopewell, Virginia


Issues of Food Access and Food Insecurity in the United States: Causes, Effects, and Implications Associated with Minority Populations

Elizabeth Roderick

May 2020

This paper explores recent literature on food access in the United States and describes the parameters of food insecurity through the lens of equity and social justice.  It highlights the disparity that people of color confront in the system responsible for cultivating, sustaining, regulating, and distributing the nation’s food supply. The paper concludes with a brief review of initiatives to date to address these issues and discusses food system reform strategies.

Issues of Food Access and Food Insecurity in the United States


Urban Commercial Revitalization graduate class, Fall 2019: Shacklefords Commercial Development Analysis, Prepared for King and Queen County, Virginia

May 2020

Chole Rote, Charlie Wilson, Will Wilson, Vegas Krane, Hunter Wood, Eric Mai

King and Queen is a rural county located on the eastern rim of the Richmond-Petersburg MSA.  The County asked the Urban Commercial Revitalization class to recommend development concepts anchored by retail food for a particular location – the intersection of Route 33 and The Trail at Shacklefords.  This report describes four alternative development scenarios, each of which is anchored by a retail food outlet, for the Shacklefords site. The recommendations are based on analyses of unmet consumer demand derived from geostatistical analysis and customer intercept surveys, as well as on the profiles of 13 retail food supply outlets, which are described in detail in an accompanying report.

Shacklefords Commercial Development Analysis


Food Access in Petersburg, Virginia: Final Report and Recommendations, Prepared for the City of Petersburg, Virginia

May 2020

Logan Ashby, Chelsey de Leon, Shekinah Mitchell, Michael Nixon-Garrison, Gabriella Pino-Moreno, Elizabeth Roderick, Jeff Smith

The City of Petersburg is an historic city located 25 miles south of Richmond.  The City asked the Urban Commercial Revitalization class to make recommendations for ways to increase and improve retail food options in low-wealth neighborhoods in the northern and eastern parts of the city.  Using surveys, geo-spatial analytic techniques and other methods the class estimated unmet consumer demand.  The class also created 13 profiles of retail food supply outlets, described in an accompanying report.  Based on these insights the class made several recommendations of alternative ways to improve access to food for Petersburg’s neighborhoods.

Food Access in Petersburg_Virginia


Urban Commercial Revitalization graduate class, Fall 2019: Increasing Access to Food: A Comprehensive Report on Food Supply Options

May 2020

Logan Ashby, Chesley De Leon, Vegas Krane, Eric Mai, Shekinah Mitchell, Michael Nixon-Garrison, Gabriella Pino-Moreno, Elizabeth Roderick, Chole Rote, Jeff Smith, Charlie Wilson, Will Wilson, Hunter Wood

This report describes 13 retail food supply options that developers and local governments can consider when seeking to improve access to retail food options in neighborhoods and communities.  These range from big-box supermarkets, to small independent grocery stores, to food banks, cooperatives, and mobile markets.  For each of the 13 types of suppliers, the report includes descriptions of the organization and operation of the retail establishment, its typical locations, and specific cases of success and failure, as well as the lessons learned for future practice. 

Increasing Access to Food_A Comprehensive Report on Food Supply Options


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