Dissertations & Theses (Open Access)

Date of Award

Spring 5-2020

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Deanna Hoelscher, Phd, Rdn, Ld, Cns, Fisbnpa

Second Advisor

Nalini Ranjit, Phd

Third Advisor

Deborah Salvo Dominguez, Phd


Food insecurity is a public health issue that affects one in ten Americans, one in seven Central Texans, and is associated with malnutrition, chronic disease, and obesity. Geographic food access is the most intervened upon aspect of food insecurity and is often measured objectively through mapping software, such as ArcGIS. Yet when geographic food access is only measured in terms of distance to food retail, analyses do not full capture the nuances of community context. Thus, other sources of data, like survey data, and demographic indicators, such as race/ethnicity and urbanicity, should be incorporated into the research exploring the association between geographic food access and food insecurity. Therefore, the purpose of this dissertation was to explore the association between geographic food access and food insecurity, and to examine the role of race/ethnicity and urbanicity utilizing objective and community-specific data. Paper 1 utilized call log data to investigate the association between geographic food access and food need calls to 2-1-1 in a 10-county area in Central Texas. Peri-urban and rural callers that lived in a zip code that only had supermarkets in neighboring zip codes were more likely to call regarding a food need than a non-food need. Paper 2 explored cross sectional associations between geographic food access and food insecurity and potential indicators using survey and geographic data. Paper 2 found that rural participants were more likely to be food insecure than urban residents. Paper 3 examined associations among geographic food access, food insecurity and measures of shopping behaviors using survey and geographic data. Paper 3 found that most participants did not shop at the supermarkets or convenience stores that were closest to where they lived. Also, peri-urban and rural participants had different supermarket shopping behaviors than urban participants, and people who did shop at supermarkets near their home were less likely to shop at convenience stores. Across all papers, urbanicity, categorized as urban, peri-urban and rural and defined by the US Census using a population density-based measure, was seen as a key factor and should be included in future analyses exploring geographic food access, food insecurity, and shopping behaviors.