Food mapping

Community food mapping involves finding out where people can buy, grow and eat food in a local area.

The information might be displayed on a physical map, or computerised version or some other visual representation of the area. A community food map might include anywhere supplying food, such as corner shops, greengrocers, street markets, supermarkets, cafe's, farm shops, restaurants and take-aways, however you may just wish to focus on retailers, rather than places selling cooked food.

As well as finding out what foods are on sale it is also useful to note down other factors such as the different varieties available, price and quality. This is particularly important for fruit and vegetables as the quality can vary greatly, and some shops may not sell them at all. You can use the retailer survey and price comparison table to record your findings.

Food mapping need not cost much. Volunteers are often happy to help, and you may only be mapping a small area such as a village or ward. However, food mapping can also be done on a larger scale that gives a really detailed picture of food access.

In some places, such as Sandwell (West Midlands) and Sefton (Sheffield), food access mapping across a big area has been carried out using sophisticated Geographic Information System (GIS) computer software. GIS mapping helps local authorities identify those areas that are furthest away from food shops, and communities that may be experiencing problems with buying good food. The needs assessment then helps to identify whether a food access project might be needed. This is a much more expensive process and will most likely need support from the local primary care trust or another statutory body.

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Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.

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