Assessing changes in food pantry access after extreme events.
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Food pantries play a growing role in supporting households facing or at risk of food insecurity in the United States. They also support emergency response and recovery following disasters and extreme weather events. Although food pantries are often placed in close proximity to communities with the highest rates of poverty and risk of food insecurity, access to these facilities can be disrupted during and after extreme events. Decreased access to food pantries following disasters can be particularly problematic as the need for these services is also likely to grow after such events. Despite the vast body of research on food retail access and food environments, relatively little research has utilized spatial analysis to understand food pantry access, particularly after extreme events. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), we characterize changes in access to food pantries following flooding events in Harris County, Texas-a highly populated and flood prone region with high levels of food insecurity and poverty. Specifically, our study models disruptions in road networks due to flooding and assesses the impacts of these disruptions on proximity to food pantries. The results reveal that much of Harris County sees only small increases in travel distance to food pantries due to extreme flooding, but some areas may be unable to access food pantries at all. This research highlights the potential and some of the limits of private food assistance networks to support emergency response efforts.