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Design For Health

Mapping Rural Health: The USDA Economic Research Service’s Online Maps

Food AtlasThe USDA Economic Research Service’s Food Environment Atlas and Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America provide a wealth of data on health issues and determinants (causes). Boasting an easy-to use interface the Food Environment Atlas deals with a very wide range of issues including grocery store access, restaurant expenditures, food assistance, food insecurity, food prices, local foods, health and physical activity information (e.g. obesity, fitness facilities), and socioeconomic characteristics. There is online documentation and data can be downloaded in Excel format.

The Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America adds even more information about people, jobs, the character of agricultural production, and levels of urbanization. Again documentation is available and data can be downloaded.

Tools: Food Security Assessments

 

Oakland, California (Photo by Ann Forsyth)
The topic of food and planning is one of great interest—particularly promoting healthy food options. Of course what people eat is a complicated result of their personal preferences, financial resources, and social context. Food availability depends on climate, the time of year, whether people grow their own food, how much it costs, home food storage options, and the kinds of stores in the local area.
However, a number of tools can help larger communities plan for their food access.
  • One such tool is the Food Security Assessment. In 2002, the USDA Economic Research Service published a well-known Community Food Security Toolkit: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/EFAN02013/ with the entire toolkit at http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/efan02013/efan02013.pdf. There are other toolkits around, with many good tools developed for use internationally in areas likely to suffer substantial food shortages, but this one by aU.S. government agency may be a good place for others to start.
  • The USDA web site provides helpful information about food security in the U.S.: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/FoodSecurity/. A 2007 USDA Food Security Assessment provides an example at the international level: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/GFA19/. However, using the methods in the toolkit, local communities can do this as well.
The food security assessment and other food related tools are discussed in the DFH Food Issues Sheet at http://designforhealth.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Information_Sheet/BCBS_ISFood_090107.pdf based on research outlined in the Food Key Questions research summary http://designforhealth.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Key_Questions/BCBS_KQFood_082207.pdf.
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