The Instagrams of Food Deserts

The Instagrams of Food Deserts

Social-media photos can be a rich source of information about the diets of people who don’t have access to grocery stores.

Food deserts, or places where people have limited access to fresh food, are usually measured by the distance people have to travel to get to a large grocery store. What’s harder to measure is what the residents of these areas are actually eating day to day.

To do so, researchers typically have to rely on surveys, which “obviously do not record every single meal, or the frequency of what people are eating,” says Munmun De Choudhury, an assistant professor of interactive computing at Georgia Institute of Technology. “Maybe [the surveys] happen every six months, or once a year … that’s a very aggregated sense of what people are eating.”