Disrupting the Food Desert/Oasis Binary: Ethnic Grocery Retailers and Perceptions of Food Access in Humbermede, Toronto
Chrobok, Michael William
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Contemporary studies of food accessibility often disregard ‘ethnic’ grocery retailers as sources of food or assume them to be attractive to all individuals. This body of research also frequently frames access as an issue of spatial proximity to grocery stores. Drawing on thirty interviews I conducted with residents of Humbermede, Toronto, I explore how food accessibility is perceived and experienced in a culturally-diverse neighbourhood where the only grocery retailers present are ethnic in nature. I argue that identity-related factors (food preferences, ethnic identification, language, and attitudes towards difference) and aspects of one’s life circumstances (purchasing power, mobility, and location or length of residence) – not merely distance – coalesce to influence understandings of one’s food retail environment and one’s store patronage decisions. These findings suggest that food shoppers are not homogenous, that all retailers are not equally attractive to all consumers, and that food accessibility has critical socio-cultural, economic, and spatiotemporal components.