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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Department or Program Affiliation

Environmental Studies

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Darby, Kate J.

Second Advisor

Salazar, Debra J.

Third Advisor

Berardi, Gigi M.

Fourth Advisor

Spira, Tamara Lea


This qualitative research focused on how women living in a neighborhood identified as a “food desert” experience food insecurity, and to learn what coping strategies are used in response. The closure of the full-size Albertsons grocery store centrally located in the Birchwood neighborhood on Northwest Avenue led to the identification of the area as a food desert by the USDA in 2016. Food deserts, neighborhoods with limited options for buying fresh food, are created through socio-economic and spatial inequalities that impact food access. In food deserts, fresh food access may be severely limited, which leads communities to organize in order to create solutions to address food access and inequality. Analyzing food access through the transformative paradigm, a social justice lens for conducting research, allowed for a closer look at how gender is tied to food insecurity, as women are one marginalized group at a higher risk of experiencing food insecurity. This study was completed through semistructured interviews with 12 self-identified women from Birchwood. Interviews were transcribed and inductively analyzed for common themes. The results of this study showed that many residents face physical and financial barriers to food in the neighborhood and use a variety of coping strategies leading to negative physical and mental health impacts when food accessibility is low. Participants also discussed solutions to increase food security, including more stores, increased public transportation and attention to the citywide affordable housing crisis.




food deserts, food insecurity, food justice, transformative paradigm, gender


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Food security--Economic aspects--Washington (State)--Bellingham; Food supply--Economic aspects--Washington (State)--Bellingham; Women--Washington (State)--Bellingham--Economic conditions; Poor women--Washington (State)--Bellingham; Grocery trade--Social aspects--Washington (State)--Bellingham; Local transit accessibility--Washington (State)--Bellingham

Geographic Coverage

Bellingham (Wash.)




masters theses




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