Your Food Environment Atlas
The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) newest online interactive website is the mapping tool, Your Food Environment Atlas, which allows researchers, policy makers and the public to find information on a range of factors that affect access to healthy, affordable foods. Users can map state or county specific information based on three broad categories- food choice, health choice and community characteristics - which have been further broken down in to 90 separate indicators.
In accordance with the First Lady, Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, the USDA believes that the Food Atlas will help facilitate a national discussion on childhood nutrition, health and well-being. Disparities in access, food prices, household income and proximity to healthy fresh foods across states and communities are among potential determinants of health. The user friendly site allows visitors to select an indicator, for example adult diabetes rate, and create a map demonstrating how diabetes rates vary across the United States or across a single state. Atlas users are able to identify counties with a combination of indicators - for example, those with persistent child poverty as well as the number of WIC (Women, Infants and Children) authorized stores. The Atlas also allows users to access data on any and all of the indicators for a particular county.
Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack has commented that, if we are to overcome the obesity epidemic within a generation (one of the main goals of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign), “we're going to need new tools, greater collaboration, and new partnerships to address this crisis… As we continue working to improve the nutrition of our kids, this new food atlas will be an important tool to help decision makers become more aware of local challenges that impact the overall health and nutrition of the American people in their local communities."
The Lempert Report hopes that the USDA’s efforts to ‘expose’ food environments across the nation will in fact influence policy makers and motivate the food industry and supermarket chains to fill the gaps. Disparities in access impact food choices and diet quality, which are ultimately reflected in residents' well-being.
The Atlas can be accessed here: http://www.ers.usda.gov/foodatlas/.
In addition to USDA's Economic Research Service, a number of government agencies contributed to the data in the Food Environment Atlas: The National Institutes of Health, USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA's Food and Nutrition Service, National Farm-to-School Network, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.