142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition

Annual Meeting Recordings are now available for purchase

Food mapping and the role of local health departments

142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition (November 15 - November 19, 2014): http://www.apha.org/events-and-meetings/annual
Monday, November 17, 2014

Zachary Dyer, MPH , Office of Community Health, Worcester Division of Public Health, Worcester, MA
Derek Brindisi, MPA, RS , Worcester Division of Public Health, Worcester, MA
Background: Food security in urban areas is vital to maintaining thriving and productive communities. To combat hunger and obesity—the primary consequences of food insecurity—state and local health departments have implemented a number of innovative programs and policies, which often are associated with additional data collection. Data that largely goes unused, however, is routine inspectional data that health departments collect during permitting processes.

Objective:The aim of the project was to identify geographic areas of greatest need to direct novel resources that result from state and local community health improvement.

Methods: A basemap of household income was rendered using census data. Inspectional data identifying establishments with different levels of food permits were then mapped on top of that basemap. Using known information and surveys conducted by members of a local partnership, service areas, varying in size and shade dependent on capacity and inventory, were drawn.

Results: These layers, using a common hue but variable shades and transparencies, revealed low-resource areas that could then be used to make recommendations for future investments. Because an unprecedented amount of data was coalesced that could be of significant use to the populations impacted by food programs, an online tool was developed to allow residents to research the food resources in their area. Members of the community, both residents and non-profit organizations, can use the tool to find out information about all the resources in their neighborhood including hours at a food pantry, the availability of fresh produce in a corner store, and who maintains community gardens.

Conclusions: Local health departments have essential data to identify local food resources that can be leveraged to support food justice. This process is replicable in that it can be used for any set of resources in a community, including physical activity environments.

Learning Areas:

Communication and informatics
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Identify the local resources needed to improve food resources for food-insecure residents using mapping technology. Identify the resources within local health departments to inform food access programs. List common food resources for residents of a municipality. Compare methods of evaluating food resources including community gardens, food pantries, farmers' markets, and grocery stores. Demonstrate the utility of digesting and sharing data with the public.

Keyword(s): Food Security, Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the coordinator of the Mass in Motion municipal wellness program for my city which prioritizes environmental, policy, and systems changes in the food and physical activity environments.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.