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Assignment 1- GIS Project Examples

1)      Mapping an End to Hunger was a study conducted by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. The study used mapping technology to illustrate the lack of access to healthy foods in low-income communities in New York City. The maps were supported by a report released in 2006 called "Food Access in Low-Income New York: Poverty and Food Resources in Three NYC Community Districts". While the report focused on the South Bronx, Central Harlem, and Brownsville, the geographic extent of the interactive maps includes the entirety of New York City.

The purpose of the maps is to demonstrate the lack of accessibility to healthy food in low-income communities in New York City. The map illustrates all of the food sources in the City, including but not limited to supermarkets, food stamp offices, soup kitchens, and community gardens. The map also indicates rates of foreign born citizens, poverty, and population density. The map drew data from a publicly available data set showing current locations of almost every food source in New York City. This data was collected by the Coalition and is available at: www.nyccah.org/research/map_report.html  

The interactive maps show that the least amount of healthy food is available in high poverty areas, which helps to explain how high rates of hunger and obesity can exist simultaneously. It is much easier for residents in high poverty areas to access fattening foods than fruits or vegetables.  The study argues that government agencies must supplement educational efforts focused on highlighting the importance of a healthy diet with increased resources aimed at proving more sources of nutritious food. Other findings included a need for greater coordination among federal agencies working with nutrition programs, increased hours for food pantries, a greater number of large food retailers, and an increase in oportunities to use food stamps, such as at community gardens.  Link to information about study: http://www.nyccah.org/node/92

Link to interactive map: http://www.nyccah.org/files/interactive_map.pdf

Link to food data: http://www.nyccah.org/node/92

2)      The spatial/geographic aspects of this study are extremely important. This study shows that there is clearly a spatial component to healthy food access. If you access the map, you can clearly see that there are significantly less options for food access in certain neighborhoods. The geographic areas that lack food access are primarily high-poverty neighborhoods.  If you turn on the food retailers label you will see that food retailers are much more likely to be located in low-poverty areas. Also, while there are more community gardens in mid-level poverty areas than low-poverty, there are very few in high-poverty neighborhoods. The spatial component of this study illustrates the connection between poverty and healthy food access. While the report could be written without the aid of maps, the message would not be as powerful. It is one thing to read about the number of (or lack of) food retailers and restaurants, but it is quite another to actual see the concentration of opportunity in only certain areas of the city.

3). I think the interactive map would have benefited from the inclusion of obesity and hunger rates. Although the study concludes by discussing the connection between high hunger and obesity rates and a lack of healthy food access, such rates are not reflected in the map. It is possible that this could be too much information for one map, but using the label on/off feature could have avoided this issue. Obesity and hunger are not spatial issues. However, as the study shows, certain geographic areas have higher concentrations of people suffering from these conditions. Observing this spatial dimension on the maps would have been beneficial.

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