Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Food Studies


Evan L. Weissman


Food access, Food desert, Grocery stores, Obesity, Poverty, Syracuse

Subject Categories

Medicine and Health Sciences


On September 11, 2017, the owner of an independent grocery store in Syracuse, New York’s Near Westside neighborhood announced that the store would close within the month. The Near Westside is often characterized by its high levels of concentrated poverty for African American and Hispanic neighborhood residents. Nojaim Brothers Supermarket opened in 1919 and persisted for 97 years amidst an unfavorable political and economic landscape marked by the creation of both chain grocery stores and supermarkets as well as the effects of urban renewal and disinvestment. I argue that Nojaim’s endurance can be attributed to the embeddedness of the grocery store. In the last two decades, supermarkets and large corporations have normalized food desert logic as the dominant way of understanding food access, so much so that a Syracuse nonprofit used the food desert concept to successfully garner both resident and public support for a grocery store in a neighborhood that had been void of physical food access for decades. The public support is exemplary of the limited ways in which local scholars, practitioners, and politicians are (or aren’t) thinking about food access in relation to poverty. Through an eight-month ethnography at a soup kitchen in the Near Westside, I show that while food access may not be residents’ most pressing challenge, there is space for scholars, practitioners, and politicians to engage in food justice, making the connections between inadequate housing, lack of employment, substandard healthcare, and food.


Open Access



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