Michael Chrobok

About me

Michael Chrobok

Greetings! I am an urban geographer interested in food accessibility, municipal policy, and consumer behavior in multicultural cities.

I received my Bachelor of Arts from York University in Toronto, Canada, where I studied Geography and Political Science. During my final year of the program, I conducted a quantitative research project on grocery purchasing patterns in the northern Toronto neighborhood of Humber Summit. My work, which I shared at the 2012 meeting of the Canadian Association of Geographers (CAG), highlighted the subjective nature of ‘food deserts’ and emphasized the importance of vehicle access in shaping residents’ encounters with their local food environments.

I built on this project while completing my Master’s thesis in Geography at York University, under the supervision of Lucia Lo. Turning to in-depth qualitative interviews and the nearby community of Humbermede, Toronto – which had been previously mapped as both a ‘food desert’ and a ‘food oasis’ – I explored how food accessibility is perceived and experienced by residents of a culturally-diverse neighborhood where the only retailers present are ethnically-affiliated. I found that aspects of one’s identity and life circumstances – not simply distance – combine to affect one’s views of local shopping options and store choices. This work, which I presented at meetings of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) in Tampa (2014) and Chicago (2015), further demonstrated that food shoppers and retailers are not homogeneous, and that ‘access’ has key socio-cultural, economic, and spatio-temporal components. Prior to my research, these ideas had been given relatively little consideration in the food desert literature.

In 2014, I began my PhD in Geography at the University of Toronto, with Sarah Wakefield as my supervisor. While here, I have served as a Head Teaching Assistant for courses in Global Processes, Cities & Environments, Urban Geography, and Marketing Geography; delivered guest lectures on race, racialized space, and the spatial patterns of food retailing; and collaborated with my FEAST colleagues on an article about food justice and settler colonialism, which appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development.

Over the fall/winter of 2014-2015, I served as a research intern with the Toronto Food Strategy, where I conducted a qualitative study on barriers to menu expansion faced by Toronto’s hot dog cart vendors. My findings, which I presented to staff at Toronto Public Health and attendees of the 2017 AAG meeting in Boston, showed that rethinking by-laws governing the use of sidewalk space and improving communication with vendors regarding permits are steps the city must take in order to diversify its street food scene.

I am currently undertaking a new research project (2017-2020) that explores how government policies promoting supermarket development in the United States are designed, are linked to programs existing elsewhere, and practically operate in relation to their stated goals. This study mainly focuses on the Food Retail Expansion to Support Health (FRESH) program in New York, but also considers its connections to policies that have come before or after it in other cities and states across the country.

To follow and learn more about my work, please visit the links above, as well as my Academia.edu and LinkedIn pages.