Visualization of the Week: The USDA’s Food Access Research Atlas

New interactive maps from the USDA show "food deserts" across the United States.

The USDA has put together a new interactive Food Access Research Atlas to help locate “food deserts,” or places where people have limited access to grocery stores and other sources of healthy and affordable food. The map could be helpful for city planners looking to develop new grocery stores or locate good places for farmers’ markets.

The USDA lists three criteria that were taken into account to help determine indicators of food access:

  • Accessibility to sources of healthy food, as measured by distance to a store or by the number of stores in an area.
  • Individual-level resources that may affect accessibility, such as family income or vehicle availability.
  • Neighborhood-level indicators of resources, such as the average income of the neighborhood and the availability of public transportation.

Users can zoom in to a specific area to view food access indicators measured in 0.5-mile and 1-mile distances to the nearest store for urban areas, 10- and 20-mile distances for rural areas, and vehicle availability for all areas. According to the map’s about page, estimates used to create the map were taken from a 2010 list of supermarkets, the 2010 Census, and the 2006-10 American Community Survey. More about how the map was developed can be found on that page as well, and the data is available for download.

The USDA also has created an interactive Food Environment Atlas that it says “provides a wider set of statistics on food choices, health and well-being, and community characteristics for all communities in the United States”:

This map offers a wide variety of search parameters. The drop-down list from “Display a Different Map” in the top center offers nine different maps with additional drop-down lists to isolate parameters. The map shown above displays the Food Prices and Taxes map with the average price of low-fat milk in 2010 chosen as the parameter.

You can find the full interactive Food Environment Atlas here and the Food Access Research Atlas here.

Hat tip to Nancy Shute at NPR for highlighting the new Food Access Research Atlas.

More visualizations:

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