Mengya Xu, a Ph.D. candidate in the USC Spatial Sciences Institute Population, Health and Place doctoral program, is the first author of the article New insights into grocery store visits among east Los Angeles residents using mobility data published on March 15, 2024 in Health & Place.

In this article, Xu describes how her research team under the direction of Dr. Kayla de la Haye and Dr. John P. Wilson employed spatially aggregated population mobility data, generated from mobile phone locations in 2021, to investigate patterns of grocery store visits among residents east and northeast of Downtown Los Angeles, in which 60% of the census tracts had previously been designated as “food deserts”. They also examined whether the store visits varied with neighborhood sociodemographics and grocery store accessibility.

Their findings illustrated the limitations of using geographically constrained metrics of food access like food deserts. Their research highlights the utility of mobility data in elucidating grocery store use, and factors that may facilitate or be a barrier to store access.