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Samina Raja on Racial Disparities in Food Access
By University at Buffalo Law School
Welcome to UBLaw Conversations, a production of University at Buffalo Law School, The State University of New York. Today is February 16, 2008, and I'm Jim Milles, Professor of Law and Director of the Law Library.
Our guests today are Samina Raja and Lauren Breen. Samina Raja is Assistant Professor of Urban and Regional Planning in the UB School of Architecture and Urban Planning. Clinical Professor Lauren Breen is Director of the UB Law School Community Economic Development Clinic. They will be discussing Professor Raja's paper, "Racial Disparities in Food Access: Lessons from Erie County, NY."
The metaphor "food deserts," used to describe neighborhoods with few supermarkets, has captured both public and academic attention in recent years. Planning solutions designed to alleviate food insecurity and promote food justice may be misguided without a nuanced understanding of disparities in food environments. Professor Raja empirically examines racial disparities in food environments. She investigates how food access in neighborhoods of color differs from those in other neighborhoods, using Erie County, New York as a case study. Professor Raja tests the hypothesis that access to different types of food retail destinations, located within a five minute travel time, in predominantly black and mixed-race neighborhoods differs from that in predominantly white neighborhoods, while controlling for other factors such as income, population, and area. Raja finds an absence of supermarkets in neighborhoods of color when compared to white neighborhoods. However, the study reveals an extensive network of small grocery stores in neighborhoods of color. Professor Raja's research suggests that supporting small, high quality grocery stores, rather than soliciting large supermarkets, may be a more effective strategy for ensuring access to healthful foods in neighborhoods of color.
Trained as a civil engineer and an urban planner, Professor Samina Raja's research, teaching, and community engagement focuses on planning and designing communities that promote food justice, and facilitate healthy living for all residents. Her recent projects have examined racial disparities in food environments and their implication on health outcomes. Professor Raja works with local community groups to design, implement, and evaluate strategies to strengthen Buffalo's community food system. Her research is funded by the National Institute of Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
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