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Food Desert
Feeding the Regional Economic Imaginary
Patty Heyda
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This essay explores the term ‘desert’ in the context of urban redevelopment. The essay draws out the contradictions of our contemporary planning condition that enables a massive new food distribution center to be placed in a beleagured community labeled a food and mobility desert—such that the new distribution center does not change life, food, or transit access for anyone who lives there. Theorizing a spatial-temporal mismatch between place and region that effectively starves communities to feed broader markets, this essay complicates the politics and potentials of food in the struggle for space against market logics that frame community access to food otherwise. The essay posits that to understand the violence of the contemporary American ‘desert,’ even the construction of the term itself, we should look critically at those most celebrated sites of regional economic growth—battleground sites that architects and planners are invariably complicit in reproducing.

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