Eugene and deserts sound like an unlikely combination, but the USDA lists four Eugene food deserts, census tracts that contain a high percentage of low-income people living in areas with low access to fresh, healthy food. For a year, students from the UO Architecture School’s Digital Media Collective (DMC) studied public use of private space and accessibility of healthy food throughout the city, and their final project is the fabrication of food shelving that’s adaptable enough for “pop-up” markets.
Assistant professor Philip Speranza, who advises the group, says that food deserts like the Whiteaker can even contain grocery stores because some smaller stores don’t hit low enough price points or might not have enough variety. That’s why, in a farmers market-esque style, pop-up markets in collaboration with local businesses can augment what already exists. “It’s great that everything is in the neighborhood,” Speranza says, “but the project is meant to balance and complement the types of accessible foods.”
Graduate student Madison Jackson’s “adaptive market” project was the jumping-off point for the project, which continued with research on food accessibility in Eugene by undergraduate student Aliza Tuttle. Then the DMC worked to fabricate shelving with four bright colors and angles that allow it to set up in many configurations, Speranza says. “If you had a square and you rotated it, rotated it or turned it, it would actually be the same thing rotated,” he says. “By adding a very subtle angle to it, it allows multiple configurations.”
Student Carolyn Lieberman says that the highlight of the project was creating something real that might be used in real life. “That’s something that’s really different in the architecture school world because none of our stuff actually gets built,” she says, “so it’s really exciting to actually see something physically built, to have a tangible product at the end.”
To study food deserts in the USDA’s Food Accessibility Atlas, go to wkly.ws/1hg.