Childhood Obesity and Food Insecurity

Identified “food deserts” and spatially analyzed children’s BMI data to determine if there is an association



The client wanted to conduct public health research to explore the dimensions of spatial inequality and community well-being, in particular examining the relationship between food deserts (an area with limited access to retail food stores) and childhood obesity.

Tessellations utilized Geographic Information System (GIS) techniques to identify food desert areas and analyzed children’s body mass index (BMI) data to determine the extent to which these food deserts are positively associated with increased incidence of child overweight.

Services Provided:

GIS Support

Data Spatialization

Exploratory Geospatial Analysis




  • Provided GIS support for a long term study for childhood obesity and food security
  • Data collected by scientists across multiple states was geocoded, spatialized and represented cartographically
  • Collected data was augmented with roads, administrative boundaries, and addresses of grocery stores and fast food chains
  • Exploratory geospatial analysis was conducted to determine if there were any correlations between the distribution of children from food-insecure households and obesity


Notable Accomplishments

Several different spatial and statistical clustering techniques were utilized for analyzing the relationship between children with high BMI and the location of food deserts.