Environmental Studies Program


Date of this Version



Environmental Studies Undergraduate Student Thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2021.


Copyright McFayden 2021


This study used availability surveys and demographic mapping to analyze the impact of ethnic grocery stores on food accessibility in Lincoln, Nebraska. Access to fresh, healthy foods has been shown to be an important factor in public health, one in which low-income and minority populations are more likely to experience barriers such as long distances to the nearest grocery store. A growing body of research has described ethnic markets as important sources of fresh, healthy food for vulnerable populations, but on the whole the contributions of ethnic markets are overlooked in policy and research. In addition, ethnic markets may face language and cultural barriers in civic participation processes, business licensing, and loan applications, reducing the structural support these businesses receive. For these reasons, understanding how ethnic markets affect food access in Lincoln has important implications for food policy and future research.

The study asked three main questions: how do ethnic grocery stores affect the availability of fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, dairy, and meat; where are ethnic and non-ethnic grocery stores located in relation to transit services; where are ethnic and non-ethnic grocery stores located in relation to minority and low-income populations. In-person surveys revealed that 60% of ethnic grocery stores stocked dairy products, 100% stocked meat, and 95% and 90% of ethnic grocery stores provided fresh vegetables and fresh fruit respectively. Mapping ethnic and non-ethnic grocery stores against transit services in ArcMap revealed that ethnic grocery stores are located in areas with denser concentrations of bus routes and bike paths. Including demographic data in the mapping process revealed that ethnic grocery stores are more frequently located near and among census tracts with higher diversity indexes, population densities, and population below the poverty level.

These results strongly suggest that ethnic markets in Lincoln are reliable sources of fresh produce, dairy, and meat to the communities they serve. Additionally, because of their proximity to transit services and dense minority and low-income populations, these markets likely serve an important role in providing access to healthy food for communities that are the most likely to lack it.