USDA Launches New Restaurant Atlas to Track Growth
WASHINGTON, DC - In an effort to explore food trends and the factors behind growth in the fast food sector, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service has created the Food Access Research Atlas, a detailed map that explores what "influences food choices and diet quality."
According to the USDA's website, the atlas currently features over 211 indicators—such as proximity to grocery stores and restaurants and food prices—of the food environment across the county, state, and regional levels.
The atlas can be used to explore things like which counties and states have the best access to grocery stores, where food deserts are most prevalent, and the growth of fast food restaurants across the country. The data has shown several cities that have had a 50 percent increase in fast food restaurant outlets between 2007 and 2012.
The publication Eater went in-depth in the USDA’s new tool, finding cities that saw drastic changes in the number of fast food eateries. These include Custer, ID which saw a 200 percent increase (a jump from two restaurants to six), and La Salle, TX which witnessed a 133 percent increase (from three restaurants to seven). While the percentages are quite high, the actual number of restaurants are fairly average. San Diego, CA only saw a seven percent increase in fast food restaurants, Eater reports, but the number jumped from 2,367 restaurants to 2,536. Even places with larger populations like Los Angeles, a city which in parts has been under a moratorium on new fast food restaurants since 2008, has seen a nearly 6.5 percent increase.
In particular, both the Midwest and West have seen the number of fast food restaurants dramatically decrease. Multiple cities across South Dakota, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, and Idaho have seen a 50 percent or greater drop in fast food restaurants, Eater has found. The city of Sagachue, CO saw a 100 percent decrease in fast food restaurants between 2007 and 2012 dropping from two to zero.
With this new information available on food choices and quality, will we be better able to tackle the problem of food deserts in our communities? Stay tuned to AndNowUKnow as we continue to cover this growing issue.