Publication Date
Allie Wainer, Lisa Robinson, Sean B. Cash, Erica Satin-Hernandez, Virginia Rall Chomitz
Topic(s) Covered:

Most households, especially those experiencing food insecurity, choose their preferred food retailers based on prices, rather than proximity. However, food-insecure households are often transit-dependent, further burdening vulnerable households seeking healthy, affordable groceries. This study sought to better understand the multi-faceted transportation experiences of households with varying food security levels and preferences for grocery access models designed to help overcome transportation barriers to groceries.


Questionnaires assessing household's transportation modes and preferences for accessing groceries, and their preferences for proposed grocery access models were collected through intercept and online surveys.


Of the 578 survey respondents, 35% were nonwhite; 22% at risk for food insecurity; 29% without a household car. Respondents at risk for food insecurity had longer travel times (20 min or more) to the grocery store (35%) compared with food-secure respondents (14%), as did transit-dependent respondents (31%) compared to households with access to a car (13%). Most at risk for food insecurity, low education, or nonwhite respondents preferred to drive a household car to the store, whereas most food-secure, high education, or white respondents preferred to walk. Respondents indicated they would be likely or very likely to use the following general grocery access models—grocery delivery (28%), and rideshare (22%)—and neighborhood-market based models—veggie box (50%), pre-chopped produce (36%), and extra $10 SNAP (35%). Preferences for the different models varied by respondents’ demographic, transportation, and food security status.


Results suggest unequal transportation-based access to preferred grocery stores among respondents, with longer travel times for those most vulnerable to food insecurity. Respondents’ preferences for grocery access models—which may have changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic—provide insight for designing a multi-faceted policy approach to transportation barriers to grocery access.