The University of Winnipeg



Food deserts and mirages in Winnipeg – new study

map of food insecurity

map of food insecurity

New UWinnipeg report maps food insecurity by location and incomes

WINNIPEG, MB – A new study released today shows that 85,000 Winnipeggers live in inner-city neighbourhoods that have poor access to healthy food, either because grocery stores are too far away or the food nearby is unaffordable. That is 65% of Winnipeg’s inner-city population.  The University of Winnipeg’s Institute of Urban Studies (IUS) has developed and mapped a more accurate way to understand the physical and economic barriers Winnipeggers face in accessing food. This new method overlays grocery store locations with an index of social challenges that includes multiple factors associated with poverty and mobility.

Confronting the Illusion: Developing a Method to Identify Food Mirages and Food Deserts in Winnipeg can help inform public policy by identifying “food mirages” – that is, neighbourhoods where residents can walk to a grocery store but cannot afford to purchase what they need once they get there. Past studies have tended to focus solely on “food deserts” – which is the lack of nearby grocery options.

The report identifies a total of 73 supermarkets in Winnipeg, 13 of which are located in the inner city and 60 located in the suburbs. Surprisingly, 65% of Winnipeg’s inner city residents have good walking access to a nearby market, compared to 60% of suburbanites who do not.  Living close to a supermarket can falsely provide the impression of food security, until income and other factors are considered.

“Having access to healthy and affordable food is fundamental to creating a better city,” said Dr. Jino Distasio, Director, IUS and VP Research and Innovation. “Our work helps by drilling down to the community level to identify areas of highest needs that will help policy makers better direct resources. As well, understanding food insecurity from a spatial perspective allows Winnipeggers to know that is many parts of our community people are at risk.”

Study authors: Alum Kyle Wiebe and Jino Distasio staff photo

Study authors: Alumni Kyle Wiebe and Jino Distasio staff photo

This is the fourth report in IUS’s “In Brief” series. Previous reports include:

2014 Living in the Red Exploring Winnipeg’s Debt-Scape

2014 The Lived Experience Circle

2013 Downtown Winnipeg: Developments and Investments, 2005-2013

The IUS In-Brief series provides new space for thought on urban issues from a variety of perspectives — from academic research to journalistic investigation, from editorial comments to public stories. It is intended to provide concise comment, thought and informed discussion on a range of urban issues. The In-Brief series was launched in October 2012 and IUS invites ideas for the series at:

Food insecurity media backgrounder

Diane Poulin, Senior Communications Specialist, The University of Winnipeg
P: 204.988.7135, E: