The Implementation of Cellular Location Data Analytics on the Analysis of Food Accessibility Issues in the Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD Metropolitan Areas; Washington DC and Baltimore, MD: A Study of Two Food Deserts

Billings, Liam, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Foutz, Y Natasha, McIntire School of Commerce, University of Virginia
Ku, Tsai-Hsuan, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

Using cellular location data and novel computational methods to analyze such data, a
database describing consumer activity to specific food stores within the Washington, DC and
Baltimore, MD metro areas was produced. With this dataset, a variety of descriptive statistics
were created. The resulting statistics from this dataset were then used to enhance an analysis of
food accessibility issues in the Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD metro areas in a tightly
coupled STS analysis. Using Actor-Network Theory as an analytics lens, it was found that both
metro areas had heterogeneous frameworks to attempt to address food desert issues. While food
store businesses were found to be actants in both cases, the metro areas differed in both primary
actors and additional actants. The Washington, DC metro area was found to have only one
primary actants: the Washington, DC government through the Washington Metro Area Transit
Authority and their outreach programs. The Baltimore, MD metro area was found to have
civilian actors which were more prominent on how food access issues were being addressed,
with such low to middle-income actors attempting to influence both outreach and transport
efforts of the Baltimore, MD metro area government and potential healthy food store operators.
The statistics collected during the technical project indicated that citizen behavior regarding the
opening of unhealthy food stores worked against such mitigations, as activity to unhealthy food
stores independent of the newly opened food store increased at a greater rate than other food
store types. The significance of transit systems as a food accessibility aid was also clearly
indicated, as the Washington, DC metro area food store generally had significantly less traffic
from users than equivalent Baltimore, MD metro area food store despite adjustments for food
store density per user capita and the distances traveled by Baltimore, MD metro area users was
significantly less than Washington, DC metro area users.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
food access, food deserts, Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD, mobile location data

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
Technical Advisor: Natasha Foutz
STS Advisor: Tsai-Hsuan Ku
Technical Team Members: Natasha Foutz, Weiguang Wang

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