Degree Name

DrPH (Doctor of Public Health)


Public Health

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Robert Pack

Committee Members

Deborah Slawson, Amal Khoury


Food deserts are a growing problem in the United States, and occur in areas of low-income where people have limited access to healthy foods. In response, the presence of farmers’ markets has grown exponentially, and improved healthy food access. Additionally, the USDA has strived to connect families to healthy foods through food assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP). This study investigated the relationship between farmers’ markets, their acceptance of food assistance benefits, and their locations within Tennessee food deserts census tracts.

Using the 2017 Farmers’ Market Directory, this study merged market data, including geocoded addresses, with the appropriate census tract data from the 2015 Food Access Research Atlas. Chi-square tests of independence and spatial visualizations were used to assess the relationship of census tracts, farmers markets, and food assistance benefits.

Of the 1,497 Tennessee census tracts, 18.0% were food deserts. Of these food deserts, 9.3% had at least one market present. Of these food deserts, 92.0% were urban. Of 130 farmers’ markets in Tennessee, 34.6% accepted any food assistance benefits. Additionally, 56.9% of all markets were in areas of high socioeconomic status (SES).

Results indicated that markets were clustered in urban areas, and few were identified as food deserts. Additionally, few markets were in food deserts and accepted any food assistance benefit. Due to these findings, the definition of food deserts should be expanded to include additional food retailers other than supermarkets. Also, additional policies and research is needed to reinforce farmers’ markets and food assistance programs as food access interventions.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.